Released 1990 (West Germany)
American & German, in English
Director - Volker Schloendorff
Stars - Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall, Aidan Quinn
In a dystopian future where pollution has rendered most women infertile, religious conservatives have overtaken the country, “cleansing” it of evils and forcing the few remaining fertile women to reproduce. Fertile Kate (Richardson) is captured while trying to escape the country and is eventually placed with a couple, Serena Joy (Dunaway) and the Commander (Duvall), who want her to bear a child for them. Quinn co-stars as the Commander’s right-hand man, Nick.
Blue language; offscreen torture; violence; rape; forced pregnancy; consensual sexy times; and female nudity (breasts only).
I’m giving the idea that pollution could cause infertility in most, but not all, women (like a person could have an “immunity” to pollution) a serious side-eye. I’d rather the story give a more believable “we still haven’t figured out what’s causing the infertility” explanation than some explanation that makes me snort and go, “oh, BS.”
I didn’t buy the love story between Kate and Nick AT ALL. A few shared glances without conversation and then they’re suddenly in love? What, because they’re both young and reasonably attractive? Okay then. I’m going to assume that this relationship is much better established in the book.
I loved that it showcased the hypocrisy of people who “moralize.” In this future, motherhood and babies are fetishized. At the same time, the women who can have babies are denied the opportunity to raise them and if they take any pleasure in making those babies they are deemed “whores.” The men in control have “cleansed” the country of “bad people” (in the Commander’s words, “blacks and homos”) but behind the scenes they run their own brothel, drink, smoke, and keep contraband. None of it was surprising to me. I kept thinking, “Yep, that seems about right.” It felt very realistic.
First, let me tell you that it was ridiculously difficult to get my hands on a copy of this film. It’s not even available for rent/purchase on iTunes, which I thought was weird. At any rate, I really thought I was going to hate it* and was pleasantly surprised to discover how much I liked it. The acting is so-so but the story itself is pretty interesting. I found it both provocative and timely. I wouldn’t say that it’s an especially fun watch, but sometimes it’s good to watch a film that makes you squirm in your seat and have a serious think.
*The reason I thought this is because when it first came out, I saw an episode of Oprah where she gave some audience members free tickets to it and then asked them to come back and review it for the rest of the audience. They HATED it. Every time I’ve heard a reference to this book/film since then, that’s all I could think of.