Film Analysis: The Handmaid’s Tale

“The Handmaid’s Tale on the High Line” by gsz is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


I chose the Handmaid’s Tale to analyze because I like dystopian stories with strong characters, which the series fits the bill for.

Film Analysis

Film TitleThe Handmaid’s Tale
DirectorReed Morano
GenreDrama, Sci-Fi
If you could work on this film (change it), what would you change and why?I would change some of the visuals and lighting

As you view films, consider how the cuts, camera angles, shots, and movement work to create particular meanings. Think about how they establish space, privilege certain characters, suggest relationships, and emphasize themes. In addition to shot distances, angles, editing, and camera movement, note details of the narrative, setting, characters, lighting, props, costume, tone, and sound.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Who is the protagonist?June (Offred)
2. Who is the antagonist?Aunt Lydia, Commander and Wife
3. What is the conflict?The oppression of women and other minority groups
4. What is the theme? (summarize in one or two words)Learn more…Women’s liberation
5. How is the story told (linear, with flashbacks, flash-forwards, at regular intervals)Learn more…Linear with flashbacks
6. What “happens” in the plot (Brief description)?Offred has been captured by the new totalitarian state that was made to raise birthrates and help the environment but the leaders established biblical law and interpreted it in a way that oppressed women and anyone who didn’t fit their mold.
7. How does the film influence particular reactions on the part of viewers (sound, editing,
characterization, camera movement, etc.)? Why does the film encourage such
The sound and editing make it a very suspenseful watch, and they want us to feel this way so it puts us in the shoes of people living there.
8. Is the setting realistic or stylized? What atmosphere does the setting suggest? Do
particular objects or settings serve symbolic functions?
The setting is realistic, the house that Offred lives in is old architecture but could still exist today, however, the lack of any seemingly modern technology shows how this society has returned to tradition.
9. How are the characters costumed and made-up? What does their clothing or makeup reveal about their social standing, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or age? How do costume and makeup convey character?All the characters are costumed and made up very simply. Even the high-class women seem to not be wearing makeup. All formal wear is uniform and there is a lack of originality amongst the crowds. “Servant” women such as Marthas and handmaids have their hair covered.
10. How does the lighting design shape our perception of character, space, or mood?The lighting is also simple and really just shows what we would see through our own eyes.
11. How do camera angles and camera movements shape our view of characters or spaces? What do you see cinematically?The camera angles help to build suspense and really show the expressions and reactions of the characters.
12. What is the music’s purpose in the film? How does it direct our attention within the image? How does it shape our interpretation of the image? What stands out about the music?The music exemplifies emotion and can dramatize the events of the plot.
13. How might industrial, social, and economic factors have influenced the film? Describe how this film influences or connects to a culture?Margeret Atwood wrote the Handmaid’s Tale as a reaction to the rise of the Christian right in America, and this TV series was developed for similar reasons. This show was made to show how fast things could go south in our country.
14. Give an example of what a film critic had to say about this film. Use credible sources and cite sources“The Handmaid’s Tale is a haunting confluence of tenses. It’s also one of the best shows of the year so far, at times hard to watch but impossible to ignore.” -Liz Shannon Miller (indiewire, The Verge)
15. Select one scene no longer than 5 minutes that represents well the whole film and shows relevant cinematic elements. Explain why.I picked the first five minutes because I think the opening is important and sets up the entire show.
16. In the selected scene: write a sentence for each of the elements below:
a. Screenwriting:Opens to June’s family presumably trying to escape
b. Sound Design:Muffled background noise but loud effects (car crash, gunshots)
c. Camera Movements:Hovers around June’s face to show her reactions
d. Light Setup:Shows darkness in the forest, in the room the window is behind her to signify the change in mood
e. Soundtrack:No music in the opening scene, just loud sound effects
18. What’s the socio-cultural context of this film?Rising dialouge/conflict in the US surrounding certain women’s rights/issues

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