6.0/10
8,534
70 user 40 critic

The Handmaid's Tale (1990)

Trailer
2:15 | Trailer
In a dystopian, polluted right wing religious tyranny, a young woman is put in sexual slavery on account of her now rare fertility.

Director:

Volker Schlöndorff (as Volker Schlondorff)

Writers:

Margaret Atwood (novel), Harold Pinter (screenplay)
Reviews
Popularity
3,215 ( 631)
2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Natasha Richardson ... Kate
Faye Dunaway ... Serena Joy
Aidan Quinn ... Nick
Elizabeth McGovern ... Moira
Victoria Tennant ... Aunt Lydia
Robert Duvall ... Commander
Blanche Baker ... Ofglen
Traci Lind ... Ofwarren / Janine
Zoey Wilson Zoey Wilson ... Aunt Helena
Kathryn Doby Kathryn Doby ... Aunt Elizabeth
Reiner Schöne ... Luke (as Rainer Schoene)
Lucia Hartpeng ... Cora
Karma Ibsen Riley Karma Ibsen Riley ... Aunt Sara
Lucile McIntyre Lucile McIntyre ... Rita
Gary Bullock ... 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:

A haunting tale of sexuality in a country gone wrong. See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The opening prologue states: "Once upon a time in the recent future, a country went wrong. The country was called The Republic of Gilead". This wordage is also quoted in the movie's main trailer. See more »

Goofs

When Aunt Lydia introduces herself to the prospective Handmaids, a slow-moving freight train is rolling through the background. This train disappears when she snaps her fingers. See more »

Quotes

Aunt Lydia: I hate to punish her, but she abused herself and your body is a temple of purity. So let that be a lesson to you. We know men can't help it, but we're different. We have self control. Dignity.
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Connections

Featured in Zomergasten: Episode #7.4 (1994) See more »

Soundtracks

Little Girl Blue
Written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
Published by Polygram International Publishing, Inc.
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User Reviews

 
as good as commercial film gets
7 January 2003 | by realreelSee 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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Details

Country:

USA | Germany

Language:

English

Release Date:

9 March 1990 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Handmaid's Tale See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$738,578, 11 March 1990

Gross USA:

$4,960,385

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$4,960,385
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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