The handmaid’s Tale – book or screen?

Having heard and read something about this production, I decided to limit my exposure to other opinions before watching the series. How quickly streaming has changed my viewing patterns! The narrative integrity remains despite the occasional advertisement – screened on SBS on Demand here in Australia – with each episode successfully conveying the ‘slow reveal’. Of course, the self-admonition to only watch one episode at a time was a tattered memory after meeting Elisabeth Moss as Offred.

It was many years ago when I read the novel. My Canadian heritage made sure I was introduced to this North American culture: mom played us the national anthem (in French and English) on vinyl, we sang along to Gordon Lightfoot and Three Dog Night, while reading Lucy M Montgomery and Margaret Atwood were a given. I deliberately chose not to re-read The Handmaid’s Tale before the delayed screening in Australia, and can’t even find my copy: probably passed onto someone or donated to a charity during one of my more than 30 moves.

Having not seen the 1990 movie, I found this trailer quite heavy handed with the seemingly distorted male voice over. It might be a useful classroom exercise to compare both trailers and consider the narrative focus between these texts.

The series has a production crispness that is immediately appealing: high contrast credits and a carefully chosen soundtrack that continues over the end credits leaves us lingering over the stark choices of people existing in Gilead.

We are constantly confronted by how effectively women are constrained yet rebel within their own context. The costuming is unobtrusive and reminds us that moments of individuality are an illusion within capitalist structures. There are occasional sly smiles or smirks, but no laughing, except in flashbacks to life before the war.

Jezebels, the secretive nightclub, offers a bleakly-lit opportunity for worn amusements of the few. Indeed, the lighting throughout offers a grim perspective of this dystopian reality.

benevolence personified

The Handmaid’s Tale – book or screen? Both. Maybe not series 2 … maybe just re-read the book.

Images from and

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