The Handmaid’s Tale | A review

“I wish this story were different. I wish it were more civilized. I wish it showed me in a better light, if not happier, than at least more active, less hesitant, less distracted by trivia. I wish it had more shape. I wish it were about love, or about sudden realizations important to one’s life, or even about sunsets, birds, rainstorms, or snow. I’m sorry there is so much pain in this story. I’m sorry it’s in fragments, like a body caught in crossfire or pulled apart by force. But there is nothing I can do to change it.” – Margaret Atwood, the Handmaid’s Tale

I came across the Handmaid’s Tale for the first time back in July when I heard about the Emmys Nominations for this year. I consider myself a regular reader with phases of reading piles of books to phases with less frequently reads, but I’d say I’m a passionate reader by heart since I was little. So it came to me as a huge surprise that I’d never heard of The handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood before, despite being called a brilliant dystopian classic for many years now.

So I decided to give the novel a read first before I’d watch the series as I do with most of book-film/series adaptions. I tried to inform myself as less as I could about the plot and didn’t watch the trailer at all to get a full sense of the book myself.

Let me tell you, this book was very hard to read and one of the most important reads I had in my life so far.

It wasn’t hard to read because of a particular complicated poetic language or a complex twisted storyline – it was hard because of the pure, brutal, painful, scary close to the present story of the main character.

The Plot

The story is told by a woman called Offred. Her real name doesn’t matter anymore in the time and place she lives. Offred is a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, in which woman lost all their rights as a human being, had their children and loved ones taken away from them brutally and having the only purpose to give birth to children, the precious future of the declining population of which was once called the United States of America. Offred is one of the few fertile woman, so she shares the destiny of all the handmaid’s of Gilead – being the property of their commanders and their wifes in the most disturbing, humiliating way, trying to give them their desired child on “ceremony days”. While constantly fearing for her life and of the idea of being a useless “unwoman” until death; she also maintains the drive love for her little daughter and the hope of seeing her again.

This book is a dark one and not a particular easy going light hearted piece of literature.  The book covers themes as the right of education, rape and violence, religion in it’s extremes, politics, dictatorships, the question of freedom, oppression of minorities, love and so, so much more. It made me think and reflect a lot about things which are happing in our world already and the thought of Gilead wasn’t a crazy SciFi futuristic scenario for me, specially watching the flashbacks in the series, in which the world happens to be the same as we are used to now.

With not giving too much away, I can clearly say that the Handmaid’s Tale became one of my favourite books and I was very excited to watch the series afterwards. While knowing the story and the feelings I got from the book very well, I thought the series wouldn’t be a huge deal for me. I was wrong.

The series is on Hulu, so it wasn’t a huge Netflix/Amazon production and probably a little bit unheard of by the audience outside the states, but it got huge attention after the Emmys this summer while winning 8 Emmys and being nominated for 13.

I loved the adaptation into pieces. It is very, very close to the book while adding a little bit more to certain characters and their backstories which I liked a lot and prepared everything for a next possible season.

The Cinematography

The main colour of the whole series is – of course – red. Red as the red-clad Handmaid’s and the blood on the walls of Gilead. The whole setting is quite chilly and minimalistic. I loved the camera work, which was smoothing and quiet – while in my opinion the flashbacks are filmed in a way documentaries are filmed, which made it scary realistic. The backgrounds were always slightly darker and smoother and there was always this beautiful golden hour kind of light mixed up with dust everywhere, specially in the dark rooms of the Handmaid’s which was definitely my favourite part of the Cinematography, next to the scenes in white, perfect snow and the mix with the bright red of the Handmaid’s.

The Cast

I feel like this Series is one of those art pieces where the actors have a intense face to face work with the camera, so mime acting is a key point in this series and I was just blown away by everybody from the cast. Elisabeth Moss (who plays Offred), tells us so much with her eyes and her expressions. For me, there is always some kind of rebellion in her eyes, sometimes it seems like she is laughing and crying at the same time in her expression, which kind of reflects Gilead a bit I guess. I also got deeply shocked and cried my eyes out at a particular scene with Alexis Bledel (who plays Ofglen) in episode three (everyone who watched it, knows which one I mean). Her work there was beyond outstanding and she so deserved her Emmy in my opinion.

The Music

I have a big thing for soundtracks/scores, it is basically the main music I listen to and they can influence my opinion on a film in a huge way. In this one there are songs created by various artists while the Score is by Adam Taylor. The Music in the Setting of Gilead is very minimalistic, very quiet, sometimes rising and generell very atmospheric in a dark sense, I couldn’t listen to it by itself as it isn’t pretty or moving, it makes me feel uncomfortable, which suits the whole series in a perfect way.

 

All in all I highly, highly recommend everyone who wants to read/watch a beautiful, thoughtful and important piece of art to get their hands on The Handmaid’s Tale. I know, it isn’t one of this pieces which you get back to after a long Uni/School/Work day in order to relax and reflect and get your mind off, but it is worth it and important to make time for Offred and her story!

“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.” – M. Atwood

 I got pretty obsessed by Margaret Atwoods books right now – next one is going to be The Blind Assassin. I would love to hear your opinions about The Handmaid’s Tale if you have already read or watched it!

Rosa x

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