Margaret Atwood's novel is a remarkable tour de force, a kind of feminist 1984 which gradually builds up detail so that the full horror of the world created creeps up like a killer in the night: a vision of an America so obsessed with physical, environmental and moral pollution that it returns to a mix of old Calvinism and newer Fascism. It should have transferred well to the screen, particularly as Schlöndorff is a veteran of literary adaptation. Of the fine cast, both Richardson (as the titular surrogate mother chosen to give birth on behalf of the state) and Duvall (as her unwelcome mate, an ageing military bigwig) are particularly fine. Sadly, the faults in the film lie in Harold Pinter's uncharacteristically bland script, and often woefully inadequate design and direction: the latter often missing opportunities in key scenes, the former full of rather tacky and silly uniforms, symbols, vehicles, and particularly crass watchtowers.
The Handmaid's Tale
Cast and crew