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Was there anything anyone liked?

2009 March 29
by Mista Jay

A lot of the posts  here about the film adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, definitely criticize the film. I think generally we all disliked it (myself included…I mean that ending? Seriously?), but at the same time, do you think it did something…anything right?

Personally, one thing I liked about the film was one of the beginning scenes when thy women were being sorted. In Farhat’s Post in response to Aline, I mentioned I didn’t like how linear the film was (here I go criticizing the film while trying NOT to criticize it…) because in the novel, since we’re seeing the world from Offred’s memories, time is more fluid and it feels more “real”—regardless of how real it actually is. Yet the scene where the women were being sorted was so confusing and loud, and panicky, that it was one of those scenes where time didn’t exist. Throughout the movie it felt like time was scrawling forward very slowly but in this scene it may have very well been shattered because it was so chilling to see, especially when they shoved a whole group of women (I think 116 of them?) into the truck marked “Livestock.” In the heat of a moment like that, where everyone is kicking and screaming, what really does matter? Everything is disoriented, and I really liked that effect. I suppose I also liked the scene because it was the last time we actually physically saw the women as real women, instead of machine-like handmaids and robotic wives. The film didn’t delve much in the past, before Gilead was created, so I appreciated the last look at “normal.”

But what about you all? Do you think the film hit the mark somewhere?

5 Responses
  1. March 29, 2009

    Now I don’t know much about the cinematic aesthetics of the 1980’s, but I felt that there was something amiss in the way the scenes of the film were executed. I think it was mentioned in class that the excessive use of sunlight in the outdoor scenes were counterproductive in perhaps eliciting the intended mood of the book–the dark and melancholy underlinings of Offred’s internal conversations or rather soliloquies. I too felt that the scenes were too bright, like an overexposed digital photograph.

    So that’s what I thought was “bad” about the film version but now onto what I thought was “good”. When I think of what was “good” about the film, my mind keeps going back to Offred killing the Commander when she did not do this in the book. I wonder why Pinter added this. I saw this act as Offred’s way of taking down the patriarchy. Woohoo. Although I think the book paints more of an “everyone-is-a-cog-in-the-machine-that-is- Gilead” picture, the film establishes a more patriarchal depiction of Gilead which is enforced by Offred doing away with the Commander.

  2. dekman permalink
    March 29, 2009

    I thought the scene in the movie where everyone is telling the girl who was raped that it was her fault really captured a sense of hysteria and a sort of group mentality that was really overwhelming. I thought it did a really good job of pulling the viewer into the frenzy of the situation.

  3. March 30, 2009

    Although I did like the way that the movie helped me sympathize with Janine more since her young age is more visible in the film, I didn’t like that Kate could get away with not fully participating in the shaming ritual that dekman mentioned above. On the other hand, speaking of frenzy, it was quite chilling to see Janine walk away from the lynching of the supposed “rapist” with a chunk of hair/scalp. Some things are just creepier to me when I can actually see them.

  4. Cleo Calbot permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I feel that the opening scene was much more striking in the movie than the corresponding scene in the book. Especially the “taking” of the nuns. For some reason, that aspect of those scenes stuck with me the most.

    I also totally agree with AH; the lynching seemed more creepy and unnerving when we could actually see the looks of glee on some of the women’s faces. And the scalp thing. Ew.

  5. Natasha permalink
    March 31, 2009

    I’d agree with a number of people here:

    -Holocaust cattle scene at the beginning was more explicitly Holocaust than in the book, and definitely chilling.

    -Again like Rebecca, I liked the scene where the women are in beds. They said that Gilead was creating a women’s community. I felt like _that_ scene was showing what to me really _was_ a women’s community, the subversive community of whispering name-pronouncings _within_ the technologized, regimented supposed “community” of women in their lined-up beds. This goes along with JS’s down-with-the-patriarchy view of the movie as opposed to the book. Within this viewpoint, the book provides lights (whisperings, killing of Commander) for hope.

    -My first response, though, to what we really liked was the scene dekman mentioned where everyone yelled at Janine for being raped. That scene totally linked The Handmaid’s Tale story with our current situation. Watching the women being urged to shout “whore” and Janine herself being forced to ‘admit’ “it was my fault”, I was reminded so much of the whore/virgin system (technology/construction) of women’s representation. Also of women being told that rape is their own fault, they’re asking for it, etc. This also reminded me of the interview with Sally Jupiter in Watchmen, where she borders on saying that she kind of wanted to have sex with Edward Blake anyway.

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