Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Handmaid's Tale


The Handmaid's Tale; Science-fiction drama, USA/ Germany, 1990; D: Volker Schlöndorff, S: Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall, Aidan Quinn, Elizabeth McGovern, Victoria Tennant

USA in the future: only 1 % of all women are fertile which religious fanatics interpret as God's punishment. Among those 1 % who can give birth is also Kate who is arrested when she tried to cross the border with her husband and daughter. Kate is deported with other fertile women to a brain-washing centre led by "Handmaids". From there, she is assigned to the house of infertile Serena and her husband Fred in order to give birth to their child. Fred sleeps with her for months, but a pregnancy never seems to happen. Kate becomes friends with Nick, a soldier who brings her safely across the border after she kills Fred.

An early forerunner to "Children of Men", 'soft science-fiction' drama by Volker Schlondorff "A Handmaid's Tale" was criticized by literature lovers as an unfaithful adaptation of the novel with the same title by Margaret Atwood, even though the director did a rather eloquent job. The terrifying messages in the novel about a society that turned backward in the future as well as problems due to a lack of women incapable of bearing children stayed present even on film (the army deports fertile women in trucks; "Handmaids" teach them they must never abort, not even after rape...) which works the best in the first half. In the second half, though, the heavy handed departures from the novel become more apparent - the film leaves a grey impression, doesn't sustain the fascinating premise whereas the ending doesn't tie all the lose ends in an satisfying manner. Truth be told, some scenes are almost brilliantly absurd (Serena's husband Fred is having intercourse with Kate who is held by Serena) yet the film avoided an in-depth analysis and sophisticated solutions.

Grade:++

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