Based on Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel, THE HANDMAID'S TALE presents a harrowing vision of (as the film's opening legend reads) "the very near future." In Gilead, formerly the United States, a series of ecological disasters rendering most women infertile has been followed by a coup d'état by puritanical right-wing fundamentalists. Attempting to escape the increasingly unjust and brutal oligarchy, Kate (Natasha Richardson) is captured by border guards while her husband is killed and her daughter lost. Because she is fertile, Kate is sent for training as a handmaid, where she meets the defiant Moira (Elizabeth McGovern). Kate then becomes handmaid to the Commander (Robert Duvall) and is forced to enact a ceremony, based on the biblical story of Rachel, in which she lies between the Commander and his infertile wife, Serena Joy (Faye Dunaway), so he can impregnate her. The ceremony leaves Serena Joy angry, the Commander unfulfilled, and Kate humiliated, rebellious, and desperate for freedom.
The splendid performance of the ensemble cast is highlighted by McGovern's wrenching turn as the disaffected "gender traitor." Celebrated playwright Harold Pinter supplies a stark, affecting screenplay for director Volker Schlöndorff (THE TIN DRUM), who retains all the sting of Atwood's feminist classic by sculpting a frighteningly plausible futuristic parable.
Volker Schlöndorff - German Director/Screenwriter
Volker Schlondorff - German Director/Screenwriter
Traci Lind - American Actress
Faye Dunaway - Oscar winning american actress, NETWORK
Margaret Atwood - Canadian Novelist
Robert Duvall - American Actor/Director
Bodge - American Actor/Director
Aidan Quinn - American Actor, AVALON (1991)
Elizabeth McGovern - American Actress
Natasha Richardson - British actress
In the not-so-distant future, a fertile woman is forced by her government to serve as a handmaid--a baby machine--to a powerful man and his wife who has been made sterile by ecological disasters.
Produced in association with Cinetudes Film Productions, Odyssey/Cinecom International. Color by Technciolor. Shown at the Berlin Film Festival February 1990. Additional cast: Zoey Wilson (Aunt Helena), Kathryn Doby (Aunt Elizabeth), and Lucile McIntyre (Rita). Music and songs heard in the film include: "Whispering Hope" by Alice Hawthorne "Shall We Gather at the River" by Robert Lowry "Old Hundredth (Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow)" by Louis Bourgeois "Someday (You Will Want Me to Want You)" by Jimmie Hodges, performed by The Mills Brothers "I Don't Know Enough About You" by Peggy Lee and Dave Barbour, performed by The Mills Brothers "Little Girl Blue," "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart "Johnny Come Home" by David Steele and Roland Gift, performed by Fine Young Cannibals "Save a Soul in Every Town" by Henry Priestman, performed by The Christians "Bereavement" by Otto Sieben "Amazing Grace" by John Newton "Crazy" by Willie Nelson, performed by Patsy Cline Rated BBFC 18 by the British Board of Film Classification.
"...Visual sleekness..." -- 3 out of 4 stars - 03/07/1990 USA Today, p.4D
"...Shrewd....What keeps [it] moving is [Atwood's] thoroughness and attention to small details..." - 03/07/1990 New York Times, p.C17
"...It's a beautifully austere piece of work -- it's rare to see a film these days as carefully designed as this one..." - 03/16/1990 Los Angeles Times, p.F36
3 stars out of 5 -- "[The film] holds up reasonably well as a future midway between 1984 and CHILDREN OF MEN." - 02/01/2009 Total Film