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The Handmaid's Tale (1990)

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)
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Popularity
2,534 ( 325)
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:

See it...while it's still allowed See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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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

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The address of Commander Fred's (Robert Duvall's) house is "1810". The full address of the location is 1810 Cedar Street, Durham, North Carolina. It is more famously known as the Michael Peterson murder house. Faye Dunaway and Natasha Richardson descend the real staircase of the crime scene at 54:33 in the film. See more »

Goofs

The amount of yarn held by Offred for Major's wife. See more »

Quotes

Serena Joy: [to Kate] I want to see as little of you as possible. If I get trouble, I give trouble right back.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Staircase (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Save A Soul In Every Town
Written by Henry Priestman
Published by 10 Music Ltd.
Performed by The Christians
Courtesy of Island Records
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Must See for Those Who Still Care About Women's Rights
26 February 2006 | by maxlebowSee all my reviews

Margaret Atwood, a Canadian novelist (and poet) wrote the dark fantasy novel on which this film is based. It is set in The Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, or at least the parts of it that are not radioactive. The radioactive parts are called the colonies, where bad girls are sent to die of radiation poisoning. The time is the near future, after the inevitable nuclear war, and the breakdown of government as we know it.

The society depicted in The Handmaid's Tale is a nightmare: everyone is watched by the Eyes, unknowable, unseen government spies. Women are forbidden to have jobs. They are irrevocably assigned to classes. At the top are the chaste, but morally superior, Wives, almost all of whom have been rendered infertile by the inevitable unclear war. At the bottom are the housekeepers, or Marthas, who are non-entities. In the middle are the Handmaids of the title, who are fertile, but tightly controlled. The term Handmaid is a Biblical term that is used in the Old Testament stories of Abraham, Sarah, Jacob and Rachel. In the Bible, the wives gave their handmaids to their husbands in order to produce heirs.

Handmaids, in the film and the book, are forced to have sex with the Commanders, the husbands of the Wives. During this sex, the Wives are intimately present to take in any "love" their Commanders have to give.

The Handmaids are trained to remain unattached to the Commanders. They are prohibited from using makeup or doing anything to make themselves attractive. Handmaids are forced to turn their offspring over to the morally "fit" Wives.

Robert Duvall, a Commander in whose home Offred is placed, gives a family Bible reading performance that will curdle the blood of true people of faith. It is a breathtaking, heart-stopping performance.

The government is totalitarian and monotheistic. The one god is very strict, and has His Eyes everywhere.

Offred, who was once known as Kate, is a Handmaid who, despite her training (read brainwashing), recalls her past, her loving husband, and her adored daughter. She tells with sparkling, and terrifying clarity, how the society came to be the way it is.

This governmental aspect of the story is instructive, however, they are almost totally absent in the film.

Offred's/Kate's personal story is heartrending. It reminds one of the miseries of, say, the women of Darfur. When the government breaks down, she and her husband and daughter attempt to flee to Canada. Unfortunately, they are caught. Her daughter is "confiscated." Her husband is taken away. She never sees her husband again.

Offred's training is not as extensively portrayed in the film as it is in the book, but her feeling of terror and helplessness are palpable, in an exquisite performance by Natasha Richardson. Warning, blood is shown.

As we ride down the slippery slope toward the overturning of Roe v. Wade, this film is a must see for those who still care about women's rights.


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