Life and death un­der fas­cism

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television Free To Air - The Hand­maid’s Tale,

This 10-part se­ries, which landed in its en­tirety on SBS On De­mand late last week, is a tele­vi­sion mas­ter­piece: trou­bling, timely and thought­pro­vok­ing.

Based on Cana­dian au­thor Mar­garet At­wood’s 1985 novel The Hand­maid’s Tale, it struck a chord with Amer­i­can au­di­ences when it re­cently aired there on Hulu, par­tic­u­larly those con­cerned about the tone of pol­i­tics in the US.

The main pro­tag­o­nist is Of­fred, played by Elis­a­beth Moss ( Top of the Lake, Mad Men, The West Wing). She is a “hand­maid”, a young woman en­slaved for her re­pro­duc­tive po­ten­tial by a Chris­tian-themed fas­cist regime. (The open­ing scenes re­veal that she was pre­vi­ously free, with a hus­band and a daugh­ter.)

Of­fred’s days in­clude both the ba­nal and the grotesque. She goes to the su­per­mar­ket to pick up fruit be­fore par­tic­i­pat­ing in sanc­tioned killing with her bare hands; there are bizarre slut- The Hand­maid’s Tale sham­ing rit­u­als (one of which fea­tures At­wood in a cameo), and non-con­sen­sual at­tempts by Com­man­der Water­ford (Joseph Fi­ennes) to im­preg­nate her, su­per­vised by his wife Ser­ena (Aus­tralian ac­tress Yvonne Stra­hovski).

The cast in­cludes Alexis Bledel ( Gil­more Girls) as her as­signed friend Of­glen, Max Minghella as the Com­man­der’s driver, and Samira Wi­ley ( Or­ange is the New Black) as an­other hand­maid.

The se­ries comes as Ge­orge Or­well’s Nine­teen Eighty-Four is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a re­nais­sance in book sales and stage adap­ta­tions — il­lus­trat­ing, along with At­wood’s work, the ca­pac­ity of great lit­er­a­ture to speak to us across time and place.

This adap­ta­tion will be much dis­cussed and, come awards sea­son, it is des­tined for ac­claim. Don’t miss it. De­mand. stream­ing on SBS On

Elis­a­beth Moss and Alexis Bledel in a scene from the dystopian

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