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“The handmaid’s tale” under the attentive eye of God: Camera and soul

“The handmaid’s tale” under the attentive eye of God
Camera and soul

Reminding us to the times in which Game of Thrones or Lost -although perhaps less so because of the times-, invaded the front pages of those media that considered us a little more “freaks“, this week the dystopian fiction of “The handmaid’s tale” has given its blow on the table in the middle of the world after the end of its third season. We don’t want to include any spoiler, but be careful with the images!

The fiction started in 2018 in HBO as an adaptation of the homonymous book of Margaret Atwood, and soon became one of the platform’s flagship series, highlighted by a plot that presents a dystopian future where the world’s birth rate collapses as a result of sexually transmitted infections and the enviromental pollution, leading to a totalitarian and religious fundamentalist government, which seeks to solve the problem by considering women as state property and subjecting those few remaining fertile ones, called “handmaids“, to continuous ritualized rape.

This argument, which has raised so many controversial opinions, is accompanied in the series by an exemplary photographic direction that, by means of angle, position and colour, manages to transmit to the spectator the poisonous atmosphere of Guilead -the fictitious nation created in the series-.

Extract from 3×13 (The Handmaid’s Tale – HBO)

“The Eye of God” on Guilead

Although it’s not until the fourth chapter of the first season that Mike Barker and Reed Morano take the reins as directors, their planning and directing work shows from the first moment. Barker is a British director who has previously worked on series such as Broadchurch (ITV) or Fargo (FX), a filmmaker who looks for a very characteristic camera style, often in uncomfortable positions, but who manage to frame the essence of the scene undeniably.

One of the characteristics of this last season has been the exploitation of the upper view, an almost perfect plant that, although it had already been used as a resource in the series, now takes an important role in various scenes. The so-called “eye of God” presents the characters as tokens in a game, moving pieces in an infinite play executed from the heights. The theological theme of the series supports the camera point, making June, the protagonist of the fiction, appear as one of these tokens and separates us from the importance of the character, which is just another excuse to tell a story of self-improvement and survival.

Extract from 3×08 (The Handmaid’s Tale – HBO)

Directors such as Mary Harron and Martin Scorsese -respectively American Psycho (2000) and Goodfellas (1990), as an example- had already used the resource in previous films, and it is a characteristic leitmotiv in the cinema of Quentin Tarantino, who also tends to relate it to scenes of death or suffering, as occurs in Django Unchained (2012).

However, Barker and Morano’s use of “God’s eye” to meticulously support the plot of “The maid’s tale”, in addition to the means at their disposal, makes the planes it presents appear to be taken from a distant universe, in which personality and will have been dissolved to make way for iron and military discipline, and the only possibility is to move away, disappear in the heights, abandoning the material being, and vanish.

Although this third season of the series has suffered harsh criticism for an excessively slow plot, the work of directors, not only Barker and Morano, but of all those involved in fiction, has managed to immerse us a little more in the world of Guilead and the desperate vision of June.

Extract from 3×07 (The Handmaid’s Tale – HBO)

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