By February 21, 2011 1 Comments Read More →

Read it/Watch it: The Handmaid’s Tale

Recently The Kansas City Public Library held the first in this year’s Read it/Watch it book and film series. We opened with The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which was also a featured title in the KCPL Winter Reading Program, handmaidstaleAltered States.

After a very lively discussion of the book on a Tuesday night, the film was screened on a Sunday afternoon. Attendees were many of the book group members and some viewers who had seen the joint film/book discussion advertised and read the book on their own.

Before we start the film, a few moments are given over to telling the viewers something about the movie and giving them some points to ponder while watching to encourage discussion afterward.

As soon as the end credits started to roll, so did conversation. The audience immediately felt that the film had a much more optimistic tone than the book, especially in the ending. One viewer pointed out that the director, Volker Schlondorff, has a choice in the way the actors deliver the lines which helps the audience understand their characters. She pointed out that in the book the reader is never completely certain that Nick (Aidan Quinn) loves the handmaid (Natasha Richardson) and possibly betrayed her at the end. This is not the case in the movie.

Reader viewers also had much to say about Serena Joy’s character as presented in the book and the movie. One viewer felt that Faye Dunaway’s screen personality was too large for the character. She said that Serena Joy elicited a little more sympathy in the book than she did in the movie.

Another reader made a very astute observation about the handmaid. In the book, she is unnamed, however in the movie, the handmaid is given the name of Kate. The audience discussed this important decision the director made and felt it took away from the underlying terror of the story that the women are interchangeable. They wondered why other handmaids were given their Of- names, but not Kate.

Viewers felt costuming was important and wondered why the Wives were given form-fitting dresses in blue. One viewer noticed that Moira’s outfit in the brothel is a sexy version of the handmaid’s bright red gown and this sparked a comparison between the two characters and the similar prisons they share.

Conversation closed with participants wondering why no efforts were made to film the book’s epilogue. One viewer felt that this portion of the book is an essential piece that contributes greatly to the fearful tone.

The Read It/Watch It series will continue with screenings of The Road and Children of Men. I’ll post summaries of those discussions as well.



About the Author:

Kaite Mediatore Stover refuses to give up her day job as director of readers' services for The Kansas City Public Library to read tarot cards professionally or be the merch girl/roadie for her husband's numerous bands. Follow her on Twitter at @MarianLiberryan.

1 Comment on "Read it/Watch it: The Handmaid’s Tale"

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  1.' P4p3rDr4g0n says:

    The movies are always different from the book. The Harry Potter movies, a lot of little things left out. These may be governed by the reader. Jurrasic Park or the book is completely different from the version of the movie (Monster Island). Could also be divided into at length. I think there are very good books of Margaret Atwood’s. One of the best for me Pénelopeia.

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