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Handmaid's Tale (Widescreen) [Import]

Natasha Richardson , Faye Dunaway , Volker Schlöndorff    R (Restricted)   DVD
2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Set in a time when a buildup of toxic chemicals has made most people sterile, Volker Schlondorff's film offers a disturbing view of a society under martial law in which fertile women are captured and made into handmaids to bear children for rich and infertile matrons. The film unfolds from the eyes of newly converted handmaid Kate (Natasha Richardson). She is trapped in this mysogynistic society which both deifies these fertile women as prized possessions and condemns them as whores. Throughout the story Kate has to cope with the jealousy of the woman she serves (Faye Dunaway), the advances of her sleazy military husband (the Commander, played by Robert Duvall), and the loss of her daughter, who has been shuttled off to a similarly aristocratic setting. She also falls in love with one of the Commander's security guards (Aidan Quinn), who sympathizes with her plight and potentially offers her a way out. Throughout The Handmaid's Tale, issues of feminism, abortion rights, male dominance, and conservative religious politics all come under fire. Some may view the film itself as antifemale considering its concepts, but it is quite the opposite. Instead it shows how only through solidarity can women bring down an overriding patriarchical mindset. The film, which works from Harold Pinter's screenplay adaption of Margaret Atwood's novel, features strong performances from those mentioned as well as Elizabeth McGovern and Victoria Tennant. --Bryan Reesman

Product Description

With "cool eroticism, intelligence and intensity" (Playboy), this eerie futuristic thriller,based on Margaret Atwood's controversial and critically acclaimed best-selling novel, is filled with "large themes and deep thoughts" (Roger Ebert). Boasting a phenomenal cast, including Natasha Richardson (Nell) and Oscar(r) winners* Faye Dunaway (Network) and Robert Duvall (Tender Mercies), this film "dazzles with its ingenuity and shocks with its outrageousness" (WNCN Radio)! In the not-so-distant future, strong-willed and beautiful Kate (Richardson) possesses a precious commodity that most women have lost and most men want to control fertility. Forced into a brain-washing boot camp that turns fertile women into surrogate mothers for social-elite men and their infertile wives, Kate thinks she's made out well when she's assigned to an eminent partyleader (Duvall). But when she learns that he's sterile, she's faced with the impossible choice: produce him an heir or die! *Dunaway: Actress, Network (1976); Duvall: Actor, Tender Mercies (1983)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very poor adaptation of an excellent novel... Dec 10 2003
By Monika
I first read Margaret Atwood's book The Handmaid's Tale for a women's studies course at my local community college and I enjoyed it very much. It is a very important work, much in the same vein as Orwell's "1984," but more hopeful, and told from the perspective of a woman. However, the movie was a huge disappointment and loses much of Atwood's message.
A quick overview of the story: Offred is a Handmaid in a futuristic, dystopian society known as Gilead. The birthrate in Gilead is very low due to severe toxic pollution, and so the remaining fertile women are selected to be Handmaids whose sole purpose is to become pregnant by the upper class men (called Commanders). As soon as they provide their Commander with a child, they are packed off to another household to do it all again. If they are ever unable to bear more children, they will more than likely be labeled "Unwomen" and shipped away to a work colony to die. Handmaids are not allowed to read, and can only leave the house with permission. The book consists mostly of Offred's thoughts about her former life and her current position. There are hints of a resistance movement, but no one in this world can ever be sure that anyone else is trustworthy. Offred does not know what is real, or what is safe, and lives in constant fear. The regime has made it illegal for a man to be termed infertile, so if a Handmaid has no children, it is blamed on her without question. Offred's Commander is obviously incapable of fathering children, and she faces relocation to the colonies if she does not conceive. As her time runs out, the suspense builds to a crescendo of urgency and terror.
The film does not capture the full horror of the world Offred, the story's main character, lives in.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time or money!!!! Feb. 21 2002
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
I was not expecting this movie to wholy capture the essence of the book, but I also wasn't expecting to be this disappointed. Key elements of the book were omitted making the movie an empty shell of Atwood's work. The movie fails to capture Offred's internal struggles and the presentation of her name from the time before increases that failure. If you hadn't read the book first, much of the movie is left flat. If you have read the book, you'll likely be left wondering why so much is missing. Combine this with dry performances from the actors and an ending changed so dramatically the original intent is lost and you're left wanting the hour or so of your life that you've wasted back.
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5.0 out of 5 stars FRIGHTNING, EXCELLENT, COMPELLING- A MUST! May 2 2003
'The Handmaids Tale' is a very god film/ a definite favourite of mine. I really like this film, and find the events that take place very interesting/ compelling and damn right scary if it were to really happen in the near future. Natasha Richardson is excellent in the lead. All the actors were well casted, and I love Traci Lin's small part in the film who's always a favourite of mine. I absoluely recommend this film to anyone that is curious and/or interested in this film.
By Justine Ryan
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4.0 out of 5 stars Extremely scary, but worth watching Jan. 7 2003
The first time I watched The Handmaid's Tale I was hooked! Like Huxley's Brave New World, it is a scary vision of a possible future in which birth is regulated by the government. Unlike Huxley, however, The Handmaid's Tale is also a vision of something far worse--what happens when religion is twisted around and used as a means to force people to do something they don't wish to do, especially if said religion controls the State. Whether it's Christianity or New Age, or any other religion for that matter, a religion-controlled State can be a very bad thing.
The actors in The Handmaid's Tale are a very good bunch. Natasha Richardson as Kate/Offred turned in a stunning performance, as did Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall as Serena Joy and the Commander. Aidan Quinn was excellent as Nick, and I loved Elizabeth McGovern's scheming, wily Moira. Victoria Tennant gave me the chills in her role of Aunt Lydia, and the role of Ofglen, though small, was wonderfully handled by Blanche Baker.
All in all, The Handmaid's Tale is a good movie. My only gripe with the DVD is that it didn't have any extras apart from the trailer, but the film itself is definitely worth watching.
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4.0 out of 5 stars THE HANDMAID'S TALE Dec 16 2002
By A Customer
Great movie---but need to read the book to keep pace. Loved both the book and the movie.
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4.0 out of 5 stars People get the wrong interpretations Nov. 13 2002
What most of the arch-liberals commenting on this film here seem to completely miss is that the state religion depicted in this movie is not representative of Christianity. But I am not surprised anymore by ignorant people harping on about the USA already being "controlled by Christian fundamentalists" or the "shock horror" of such coming to pass.
Anyway, for anyone who cares to notice, the insignia (eye and pyramid) of the movie's Republic of Gilead (located somewhere in present day America) is what is commonly known as the sign of the Freemasons secret society as well as the New Age movement. Thus the Gilead in the movie is really a depiction of what could happen if a secret society with all its intra-society obligations and weird rituals, or the ever pervasive New Age movement with its own dogma, took control, politically, socially and militarily. Obviously, elements of Taliban or Iran-like regimes are also depicted, particularly regarding the subjugation of women.
Take note of the background news flashes throughout the movie - references to the war on the borders, insurgencies by Southern Baptist guerillas (!); but all carefully sanitized news pointing to state media control as was prevalent in the Soviet Bloc and is still present in many dictatorships today.
I don't really care about Margaret Atwood's "original intent" or the lefties' interpretations of her work. This movie was intriguing and enjoyable for its portrayal of the desire for freedom (personal, social, religious) that runs fiercely in any human being that cares. It's interesting that this movie came out the same year as Not Without My Daughter, based on the real-life experiences of an American woman trapped by her marriage to a Muslim in oppressive Iran.
This is the first movie I saw starring Nathasha Richardson, and she captivated me. Great beauty and talent. Robert Duvall was also excellent as the slimy Commander and Faye Dunaway as his disenchanted yet loyal wife.
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