American television series 'The Handmaid's Tale,' adapted from Margaret Atwood's award-winning dystopian novel of the same name is eliciting equal parts shock and admiration from viewers. The disturbing but brilliant first episode has everyone talking across social media, particularly a sex ritual scene.
'The Handmaid's Tale' presents a dystopian future United States where democracy has been replaced by totalitarian control of a Christian fundamentalist government. Women are totally subjugated by men and have no rights. War has damaged the environment and rendered most people infertile. Only a handful of women who are fertile are forced to have ritual sex with their elite male masters and bear children for them and their infertile wives, notes The Sun .
A scene from the first episode reveals the plight of such women in a aesthetically shot but brutally provocative scene where actor Joseph Fiennes's character, The Commander, reads verses from the Bible to justify raping women and is then seen ritualistically impregnating a passive Handmaid called Offred, played by Elisabeth Moss, while she lies on the lap of the infertile wife of The Commander, played by Yvonne Strahvosky.
It is by deliberate design that the thrusting male character is seen straining his facial muscles at the height of orgasm, while both the women appear cold and lifeless. The suggestion then here might almost be something akin to Necrophilia. However, the story is eventually about the spirit of the individual and how some of these Handmaids liberate themselves from this suppression and inhuman practise.
Viewers took to Twitter to share their thoughts after watching the episode, calling it a harrowing but very faithful adaptation of the source novel by the Booker Prize winning author.
"Wow this is both brilliant and terrifying #HandmaidsTale J," Twitter user @TheWomensRoom said.
Another user, @pastasnack_e said, "Horrified by The #HandmaidsTale ? Every single aspect of this dystopia is reality for women somewhere in the world today."
It is true that in many third world nations, housewives are routinely abused, denied independence, not allowed to work and are treated as child bearing machines. 'The Handmaid's Tale' has always been a very topical subject. It may not be a reality now in the United States or Canada but it is a reality elsewhere.
Other Twitter users didn't fail to notice how very faithful the depiction of the ritual sex scene was to Atwood's novel. What is indeed commendable about the production is the manner in which the lighting creates an overwhelming sense of suffocation, while the actors, especially Elisabeth Moss and Yvonne Strahvosky elevate the scene even further and make it almost unbearable to watch.
The placement of the camera, coupled with the rhythmic thrusts creates an atmosphere that feels very much like an execution scene than that of conception of life. If the drama maintains this level of quality and delivers such heart-pounding visuals, it will likely sweep up a few trophies in upcoming awards season.