A classy cast, a distinguished director (The Tin Drum’s Volker Schlöndorff), a script by Harold Pinter: hopes were high for this adap of Margaret Atwood’s feminist take on the sci-fi novel.
It disappointed at the time, but holds up reasonably well as a future midway between 1984 and Children Of Men. In a world blighted by infertility, women still capable of conceiving are rounded up and sent to work as sex-servants for wealthy men.
Kate (Natasha Richardson) is renamed ‘Offred’, posted at the manor of the Commander (Robert Duvall) and bid to do his will - without arousing the resentment of his sterile wife (Faye Dunaway).
Reduced to incubators, the women are indoctrinated with hatred for the birth-control practices of the past. Schlondorff comes unstuck in not
finding a way to represent those purple passages of the book where Offred sensuously describes her new life’s meagre pleasures, her little tastes of freedom.
Without them, The Handmaid’s Tale simply dilutes down into run-of-the mill dystopian fare. An empty turn from Richardson does little to save things, though the formalised sex scenes, a truly debauched party on the city’s outskirts where the extreme decadence of the ’80s lives on and the killing rituals do deliver an almighty chill for audiences. No extras.