Facets Cinémathèque

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Facets Teach-In

Our Teach-In series uses film to create awareness about significant contemporary issues and provoke dialogue and discussion. They are held twice a month and are free-of-charge, although a donation will be requested.

July 10, 2017

The Handmaid's Tale
with Professor Helen Thompson

Film still: The Handmaid's Tale


"The Handmaid's Tale is a shrewd if preposterous cautionary tale that strikes a wide range of resonant chords"
  —Washington Post

Based on the novel by Margaret Atwood and adapted for the screen by Harold Pinter, Schlöndorff's 1990 The Handmaid's Tale is set in a future United States where pollution has rendered 99% of American women infertile. Offred (Natasha Richardson), part of the reproductive 1%, is forced to become a "Handmaid," a sexual slave who serves as a surrogate for sterile couples. Operating as a fundamentalist Christian dictatorship, this dystopian reproductive economy places Offred under the immediate supervision of the cold-hearted Serena (Faye Dunaway) and the larger authoritarian male control of Serena's husband, "The Commander" (Robert Duvall). The film is a story of "surrogate motherhood run amok in a society dominated by iron-fisted pulpit thumpers turned fascist militarists" (Rita Kempley, The Washington Post). Made just after the political heyday of the Christian right, the film clearly intends to do for the Moral Majority what Orwell did for Communism in 1984—to envision the horrifying consequences of its ideology.

Directed by Volker Schlöndorff, 1990, USA, 109 min.

The July Teach-In will be led by Helen Thompson (Ph.D. Duke, English; M.A. Johns Hopkins, The Writing Seminars; B.A. Amherst College, English and Chemistry), a Professor of eighteenth-century British literature, philosophy, and the history of science at Northwestern University. She is an affiliate of the Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, where she teaches feminist theory and second-wave feminism. She is author of Ingenuous Subjection: Power and Compliance in the Eighteenth-Century Domestic Novel (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005) and the soon-to-be-published Fictional Matter: Empiricism, Corpuscles, and the Novel (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017).


  • Monday, July 10 at 6:30 pm

FREE admission!
Donations are requested.


The Facets Cinémathèque is located at 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. Call the Cinémathèque Hotline at 773.281.4114 for the latest schedule, showtimes and updates.

For all Cinémathèque inquiries, contact Charles Coleman at 773.281.9075 or

  • John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Artworks: National Endowment for the Arts
  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
  • Comer Family Foundation
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Alphawood Foundation
  • Polk Bros. Foundation