May 3, 2011

The Handmaid's Tale (1990)

Atwood’s award-winning novel by the same name is apparently a standard required reading in Canadian high schools. Having gone to french high school, I never got the chance to read it, so when I finally got around to doing so I also found out that there was a 1990 film adaptation starring Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall. After having finished the book I knew that I wanted to watch the adaptation. Since I recently watched Red Dawn (1984), I figured that maybe a dystopic future America that isn’t all about invading soviets might be something interesting. The book makes great source material for the movie, especially given its primary-colour coded social classes/castes and overall dystopic backdrop. Overall the script remains relatively close to the book, with minor modifications and a less open-ended finish, but overall it keeps with the book’s intentions. Stylistically however, the film is eerily mute and subdued, considering the subject matter. Characters appear lifeless and performances seem forced, of almost B-movie calibre. Despite this, however, I found it oddly fitting given the book’s sense of bondage and the totalitarian-style ‘don’t say anything wrong because who knows who can hear you or whom you can trust’. In that respect, the characters’ obligation to conform to the regime’s ideological and behavioural doctrine imposed on them against their will gives the performances seem particularly appropriate, if not necessarily intentional. Overall interesting, but a far cry from the book.