Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Case Study No. 1595: Kate/Offred

The Handmaid's Tale - Official Trailer (1990)
Trailer for the 1990 film adaptation of 'The Handmaid's Tale', based on the best-selling and critically acclaimed novel by booker prize winning author Margaret Atwood.

Starring: Natasha Richardson as Offred; Robert Duvall as the Commander; Faye Dunaway as Serena Joy; Elizabeth McGovern as Moira; Aidan Quinn as Nick and Victoria Tennant as Aunt Lydia.

The screenplay was by Harold Pinter and the film was directed by Volker Schlondorff.
Tags: Handmaid's Tale Film 1990 Trailer Natasha Richardson Margaret Atwood Robert Duvall Faye Dunaway Elizabeth McGovern Aidan Quinn Victoria Tennant Dystopia Religious Tyranny Theocracy
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[various scenes from the movie are shown]
NARRATOR: Once upon a time in the recent future, a country went wrong. The country was called the Republic of Gilead. Ecological disasters ravaged the land, resulting in civil war, political turmoil and wide spread sterility. Only a very few women could still bear children ... These women were called Handmaids.
["The Handmaid's Tale" appears on screen, then cut to two women on a prison bus whispering to each other]
MOIRA: What'd you do? How'd they get you?
KATE: We tried to cross the border. What about you?
MOIRA: Gender treachery. I like girls.
KATE: Christ, they could've sent you to the colonies.
MOIRA: They don't send you to the colonies if your ovaries are still jumping.
[cut to a man reading from the Bible]
COMMANDER: "Rachel had no children, and Rachel said ... "
[cut to his wife sitting nearby]
SERENA: "Give me children, or else I shall die."
[cut to Serena talking to Kate]
SERENA: As for my husband, til death do us part.
[cut to the Commander having sex with Kate (now covered in a red veil and renamed "Offred"), with Serena in the bed with them]
COMMANDER: [in voice over] "So she gave Jacob her maid Bilhah, and Jacob went into her."
[cut to the Commander talking to Kate in private]
COMMANDER: I thought I'd like to get to know you a little ...
OFFRED: Get to know me?
[he chuckles]
[cut to Kate being checked by a doctor]
DOCTOR: He's probably sterile.
OFFRED: Don't they test them? The men?
[cut to the Commander and Kate talking again]
OFFRED: What happened to the last one?
COMMANDER: She couldn't conceive, could she?
OFFRED: So what happened to her?
COMMANDER: [pause] She hung herself.
[cut to Serena talking to Kate while knitting]
SERENA: Maybe you should ... try it another way.
OFFRED: What other way?
SERENA: Another man.
OFFRED: What about the Commander?
SERENA: Well ... we just won't tell him, will we?
[cut to Kate (no longer wearing her veil) speaking with another man]
OFFRED: I'm going to have a baby.
NICK: He'll love you to death ... So will she.
OFFRED: Come on, you know it's yours! And I won't let them get it ... Do you wanna get out? We could get out together.
NICK: Baby ...
[cut to more scenes from the movie]
NARRATOR: Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway, Aidan Quinn, Elizabeth McGovern, Victoria Tennant, and Robert Duvall as the Commander ... The Handmaid's Tale.



The Handmaid's Tale is a 1990 film adaptation of the Margaret Atwood novel of the same name, directed by Volker Schlondorff the film stars Natasha Richardson (Kate/Offred), Faye Dunaway (Serena Joy), Robert Duvall (The Commander, Fred), Aidan Quinn (Nick), and Elizabeth McGovern (Moira). The screenplay was written by Harold Pinter.

Plot summary
In the near future war rages across the fictional Republic of Gilead and pollution has rendered 99% of the population sterile. Kate is captured after seeing her husband killed and daughter kidnapped while the family tried to escape into Canada. Kate is trained to become a Handmaid, a concubine for one of the privileged but barren couples who rule the country's religious fundamentalist regime. Although she resists being indoctrinated into the bizarre cult of the Handmaids, mixing Old Testament orthodoxy and misogyny with 12-step gospel and ritualized violence, Kate is soon assigned to the home of the Commander and his cold, inflexible wife, Serena Joy. There she is renamed "Offred" - "of Fred".

She is forced to lie between Serena Joy's legs and have sex with the Commander, in hopes that she will bear them a child. Kate continually longs for her earlier life. She soon learns that many of the nation's male leaders are as sterile as their wives. She decides to risk the punishment for fornication — death by hanging — in order to be fertilized by another man who will make her pregnant, and subsequently, spare her life. The other man turns out to be Nick, the Commander's sympathetic driver. Kate grows attached to him and eventually becomes pregnant with his child.

Kate ultimately kills the Commander, then hides from the men who come looking for her. She thinks that the men are the Eyes, the governments secret police. However, it turns out that they are soldiers from the resistance movement, which Nick, too, is a part of. Kate then flees with them, leaving Nick behind in an emotional scene.

In the closing scene, Kate is shown pregnant and alone in a stationary trailer. She reminisces about Nick and the current situation, hoping that once the resistance has won, she and Nick will be together and she will be reunited with her daughter.




Schlondorff, Volker (Director). The Handmaid's Tale. United States/Germany: Bioskop Film, 1990.

Starring: Natasha Richardson (Kate/Offred, Librarian); Robert Duvall (Commander)

Based on the Novel: Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1986.

The Commander, Offred's master in this dark vision of American society, expresses no surprise when his Handmaiden beats him at an illicit game of Scrabble: "Because you're a librarian." That's the only mention of her occupation before women were enslaved and their value reduced to their ability to conceive. She is the main character, however -- a strong woman struggling to survive under new and appalling societal sanctions. Note that in the book she is not a librarian but a "discer," one of a team of ladies who digitize library books before shredding them. Libraries get a little more mention in the book, with the theme of Library as Church/Temple/Sanctuary (rich with symbols to tease academics). Her problems start when the discers are suddenly fired and removed from their workplace, and we do see a (former) university library defiled when the women's Salvaging -- a modern-day witch trial -- takes place on its wide lawn. This scene is also in the film but its location unidentified. Neither film nor book have much in the way of library issues, but Offred (her birth name is not revealed in the book) could be examined as a metaphor for repressed knowledge. (And despite this story being largely touted as "feminist," the men have it just as bad as the women; the film isn't as balanced as Atwood's tale.) Book and knowledge access comparable to Fahrenheit 451.

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