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The Handmaid's Tale (1990)

In a dystopicly polluted rightwing religious tyranny, a young woman is put in sexual slavery on account of her now rare fertility.

Writers:

(novel), (screenplay)
Reviews
2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Kate / Offred
...
Serena Joy
...
Nick
...
Moira
...
Aunt Lydia
...
Commander
...
Ofglen
...
Janine / Ofwarren
Zoey Wilson ...
Aunt Helena
Kathryn Doby ...
Aunt Elizabeth
...
Luke (as Rainer Schoene)
Lucia Hartpeng ...
Cora
Karma Ibsen Riley ...
Aunt Sara
Lucile McIntyre ...
Rita
...
Officer on Bus
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Storyline

Set in a Fascistic future America, The Handmaid's Tale tells the story of Kate, a handmaid. In this America, the religious right has taken over and gone hog-wild. Kate is a criminal, guilty of the crime of trying to escape from the US, and is sentenced to become a Handmaid. The job of a Handmaid is to bear the children of the man to whom she is assigned. After ruthless group training by Aunt Lydia in the proper way to behave, Kate is assigned as Handmaid to the Commander. Kate is attracted to Nick, the Commander's chauffeur. At the same time, a resistance movement begins to challenge the regime. Written by Reid Gagle

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Branded: Sold: Controlled See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

|

Language:

Release Date:

9 March 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A História da Aia  »

Box Office

Gross:

$4,960,385 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Jamie Portman has cited lead actress Natasha Richardson's retrospective viewpoint on the picture's screenplay by Harold Pinter for for the CanWest News Service by stating: "Richardson recognized early on the difficulties in making a film out of a book which was 'so much a one-woman interior monologue' and with the challenge of playing a woman unable to convey her feelings to the world about her, but who must make them evident to the audience watching the movie . . . She thought the passages of voice-over narration in the original screenplay would solve the problem, but then Pinter changed his mind and Richardson felt she had been cast adrift . . . Harold Pinter has something specific against voice-overs'. she said angrily nineteen years ago, 'speaking as a member of an audience, I've seen voice-over and narration work very well in films a number of times, and I think it would have been helpful had it been there for The Handmaid's Tale. After all it's her story . . . In the end director Volker Schlöndorff sided with Richardson". The Wikipedia website states: "Portman does not acknowledge Pinter's already-quoted account that he gave both Schlondorff and [source novelist Margaret] Atwood 'carte blanche' to make whatever changes they wanted to his script because he was too 'exhausted' from the experience to work further on it. In 1990, when she reportedly made her comments quoted by Portman, Richardson herself may not have known that". See more »

Goofs

A man is giving a speech denouncing women. He lists one of their sins as "test-tube babies" (on the soundtrack), but his mouth is clearly saying something else. See more »

Quotes

Aunt Lydia: Oh God, make me fruitful.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Gossip Girl: The Handmaiden's Tale (2007) See more »

Soundtracks

Whispering Hope
Written by Septimus Winner as Alice Hawthorne
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User Reviews

 
as good as commercial film gets
7 January 2003 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I'm surprised by some of the negative comments on this film. In my opinion, it represents the best kind of literary adaptation that the cinema offers: One in which the screenwriter and director clearly remained faithful to the spirit of the book without attempting to reproduce it. How can you go wrong with a Margaret Atwood book, a Harold Pinter screenplay and Volker Schlöndorff's direction? Some have suggested that the film suffered from "wooden" acting. Personally, I thought it was a fantastic cast: Robert Duvall and Victoria Tennant at their evil best; Faye Dunnaway as the "defeated" wife; Elizabeth McGovern as saucy as ever; Aidan Quinn and Natascha Richardson in the necessarily bland roles that drive the narrative. What holes here?

Commercial film doesn't get any better. "The Handmaid's Tale" is a dark portrait of a world unlike ours and yet so much like ours... in which a right-wing, bureaucratic patriarchy dominates the land. Women have three main functions (for which their clothing is color coded): Red for the handmaids, who are walking wombs; white for the innnocent children; blue for the sterile trophy wives. Brown is worn by the "aunts", a futuristic equivalent of the Sonderkomando (i.e., Jews who worked on behalf of the Nazi's in the death camps), evil schoolmistress types who both train/brainwash young women for assignment and occasionally destroy them. A fifth function, for which the garb is particularly interesting, is "working" in Gilead's underground social club (essentially a den of iniquity, rife with prostitution and drugs.) Point is... by splitting up these functions, hasn't Atwood described the basic roles that women play within our own male-dominated society, in various different permutations and combinations? To the patriarchy, women are mothers, models, sluts, angels and, when professionals, they are not to aspire to more teaching posts. In Gilead, the lines are clearer; in our own society, aren't most women "supposed to" play some combination of all of these roles?

I get the feeling that most moviegoers are looking for something else in "sci-fi." Here's a new plot twist: The rebels feed Kate some kind of medication that allows her to read the commander's mind while destroying his brain. Wait... that's "Scanners." Oops. Seriously, two of the reviews on this site made spedific mention of Schlöndorff's "horrible", "atrocious" directorial skills. Ahem. Perhaps before they weigh in on the auteur, they ought to see "Young Törless", "Coup de grâce", "The Tin Drum" and all of his other wonderful efforts. As a matter of fact, to insinuate that someone who could bring Grass' Tin Drum to the screen in such a stunning fashion is a lousy director is PREPOSTEROUS. Schlöndorff is a giant of the New German Cinema, and it underscores the ignorance of the Hollywooders when they cast such baseless aspersions.


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