The Handmaid’s Tale is a 1990 dystopian film adapted from Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel of the same name. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff, the film stars Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall, Aidan Quinn, and Elizabeth McGovern. The screenplay was written by playwright Harold Pinter.
The original music score was composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto. The film was entered into the 40th Berlin International Film Festival. It is the first filmed adaptation of the novel, succeeded by the Hulutelevision series which began streaming in 2017.
In the near future, war rages across the Republic of Gilead (formerly the United States of America) and pollution has rendered 99% of the population sterile. Kate is a woman who attempts to emigrate to Canada with her husband Luke and daughter Jill. As they take a dirt road, the Gilead Border Guard orders them to turn back or they will open fire. Luke uses an automatic rifle to draw the fire, telling Kate to run, but he is shot. Kate is captured, while Jill wanders off into the back country, confused and unaccompanied.
The authorities take Kate to a training facility with several other women, where the women are trained to become Handmaids, who are concubines for the privileged but barren couples who run the country’s religious fundamentalist regime. Although she resists indoctrination into the cult of the Handmaids, which mixes Old Testament orthodoxy with scripted group chanting and ritualized violence, Kate is soon assigned to the home of “the Commander” (Fred) and his cold, inflexible wife, Serena Joy. There she is named “Offred” (“of Fred”).