The Handmaid’s Tale 1990 Film


The Handmaid Tale is a 1990 International movie directed by Volker Schlondorff. The film cast includes Natasha Richardson, who plays the role of Kate/Offred, Faye Dunaway who played the role of Serena Joy, Robert Duvall as the commander, Fred, and Aidan Quinn as Nick, and Elizabeth McGovern played the role of Moira. The screenplay was written by Harold Pinter while the original music score was composed by Ryuichin Sakamoto MJM.

The story started in the war which rages across the Republic of Gilead and essentially the new name of the United States of America, and the pollution had rendered 99% and population sterile.

Kate, soon to be Offred,  attempts to immigrate to Canada with her husband and daughter, as they take the dirt road, the Gilead Border Guard orders them to turn back under threat of them opening fire. While Telling Kate to run, her husband is shot, she is captured, while their daughter wanders off into the back-country confused and unaccompanied (showing one of the instances where the TV series and the 1990 movie differ in story arches).

The authorities take Kate to training facilities with several other women, where she and her companions receive training to become handmaid’s since they are one of the few still fertile women in a society plagued by infertility. Although she resists being truly indoctrinated into the cult of the handmaid, which mixes Old Testament orthodoxy with 12 step scripted group chanting and ritualised violence, Kate is soon assigned to the house of the commander and his cold, harsh wife, Serena Joy. She was re-named ‘Offred’, and her new role? The commander’s latest concubine in an emotion-free attempt to reproduce, similar to the tv series she’s shown having to  lay between Serena Joy’s legs while being penetrated by the commander in the collective hope that she will give a child, she continually longed for her earlier life, and haunted by nightmares of her husband’s death and the loss of her daughter. A doctor tells her that many of Gilead’s leaders are as sterile as their wives. Serena Joy really wants to have a baby, so she convinces Kate to risk the punishment which would be death by hanging, in order to be fertilized by another man who may make her pregnant and consequently spare her life.In exchange for her deal with Kate, Serena Joy tells Kate that her daughter is alive. She shows her proof of a photo of her daughter alive in the household of another commander.

Much like the tv series the commander also tries to get closer to Kate, in the sense that he feels if she enjoyed herself more, she would become a better handmaid. The commander gets Kate hard to obtain items and knowing her background as a librarian, he allows her to have access to his private library. However, during a night out, the commander has sex with Kate in a manner that he knows will not make Kate pregnant. The other man selected by Serena Joy is Nick, the Commander sympathetic chauffer. Kate grows attached to Nick and eventually becomes pregnant, but Serena Joy found out that the commander also has a sexual relationship with Kate, she attempts suicide. Kate taken away by the secret police under the order of Nick, before she is put in the large black van Nick tells him that she must trust him.

The other man selected by Serena Joy is Nick, the Commander sympathetic chauffer. Kate grows attached to Nick and eventually becomes pregnant, but Serena Joy finds out that the commander also had a sexual relationship with Kate and she attempts suicide as it becomes too much for her. Kate is taken away by the secret police under the orders of Nick who is, of course, an eye, before she is put in a large black van Nick tells her that she must trust him.

I’ll stop here, I wouldn’t want to be a spoiler in case you haven’t watched the film, and since there are some elements of this ending that may be included in the current TV Series. If you’d like to watch the film yourself here’s where I got it: The handmaid’s tale film


The 1990 Film Trailer


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