My name is Thomasin McCuaig, I am 21 years-old and I intend to use this blog as a platform to express ideas on life, film, love and travel through journal-like entries, articles and reviews.
My name is Thomasin McCuaig, I am 21 years-old and I intend to use this blog as a platform to express ideas on life, film, love and travel through journal-like entries, articles and reviews.
[Credit: Expert Vagabond]
I make my way down a narrow street on wobbly cobbles stones. I want to look at my feet to make sure that I don’t trip but I cannot avert my gaze. My eyes dart between Venetian buildings painted in an array of worn out colours. The buildings look old and tired, yet that is their charm. As I turn the corner, I see the Rialto Bridge spanning the Grand Canal. The architecture is breathtaking. The single stone arch span supports a broad rectangular deck carrying two arcades of shops. Underneath the bridge, gondolas float by with each being led by a man in a blue and white striped t-shirt. I feel the heat on my neck and have a huge desire to jump in the canal. I can imagine myself swimming with the mild waves as Italian guards yell at me to get out.
[Credit: The Times]
I am walking on a hiking trail between five coastal towns on the Cinque Terre. I look down at my feet and ask the question: Why did I think that wearing thongs was a smart idea? I pass fellow tourists and hear one of them laughingly say, “Australians” as they stare down at my shoes or lack thereof. I shrug the comment off and refrain from dwelling on my stylistic choices, in order to not take for granted this experience. There is something so beautiful about walking amongst nature, especially in a foreign country where the landscape, flora and fauna differs from what we know. I am amazed by the bright blue colour of the ocean and the way in which it contrasts with the pastel coloured houses that remain scattered on the clifftops. I find a café before entering Corniglia. I sit down and stare at the ocean. To my side, there are bees flying around the flowers that rest near my table. They come close, yet I do not flinch. I am too preoccupied by the view of the Mediterranean Sea.
I am now in Rome staring upwards at the Pantheon. I am speechless. This city is all about history and all I want to do is learn. As I enter the Pantheon, a tour guide tells me that it is the most preserved and influential building of Ancient Rome, as it is a temple dedicated to all the gods. It was built and dedicated between A.D. 118 and 125. I walk inside and notice the dome at the top of the ceiling and the oculus sunlight moving throughout the interior walls. I stand silent and overwhelmed that such a building exists and that I now exist in it today. Walking through the streets of Rome, there is a gelataria on nearly every corner, with numerous pizzerias in between. It is almost impossible not to stop and buy a strawberry gelato. The ice cream melts in my hand as I make my way to the Colosseum. The afternoon sun glistens around and through the holes of the Ancient ruin, making me think. There is something about this city that exudes warmth and feels like home. I can’t quite place my finger on it but I know that it won’t be long before I return.
These films are listed in no particular order and span from 1954 to 2016
This 1962 film directed by Robert Mulligan and adapted from Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, is incredibly significant not only in the context in which the film was set and made, but also in today’s society. The film tackles themes of prejudice, racial injustice, innocence, human morality and empathy. The film is memorable for its message: to put aside preconceived notions that are made without evidence or good reason and to walk in somebody else’s shoes. Also, it has one of the most beautiful soundtracks ever composed!
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
“Remember, it’s a sin to kill a Mockingbird”
I love this film, despite having unwanted flashbacks of writing about it in HSC. The 1999 film written by Alan Ball and directed by Sam Mendes (Skyfall, Road to Perdition) explores sexuality, romantic and paternal love, self-liberation, materialism and redemption. The film predominantly follows the life of Lester Burnham, who is going through a mid-life crisis. Through this lens, the film deals with the consequences of achieving the American Dream and how we must value life and discover the beauty within our world. The film is memorable for the way in which it uses colours and objects in order to convey a message.
“Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in”
“Jane, honey, are you trying to look unattractive?”
Credit: 20 Questions Film
Now I know most people have seen this film but this is in the list for the crazy people who haven’t! The 1985 film directed by Robert Zemeckis follows the adventures of teenager, Marty McFly and Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown as they travel in time and repair history. The film is memorable for its innovation, light-hearted, magical feel and humour, sharing the message that the future is what you make it, “so make it a good one”.
“Well, that is your name, isn’t it? Calvin Klein? It’s written all over your underwear”
Credit: Comic Book
Another 1985 film is John Hughes classic comedy-drama which tells the story of five high school students from different cliques who share Saturday detention with their strict, belittling assistant principal. The film remains incredibly relevant today as it explores stereotypes, social status and issues concerning acceptance from one’s parents and oneself in the world. The film is unique in the way that it focuses on dialogue and character development in order to depict a realistic portrayal of what teenagers are really like and the validity of their struggles. Critics consider it among the greatest films of all time. The film was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”
“We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.”
“I hate it. I hate having to go along with everything my friends say”
“Could you describe the ruckus, sir?”
Credit: Mental Floss
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 Technicolor mystery-thriller film is known by critics and scholars to be one of the greatest films ever made. Shia Labeouf’s film ‘Disturbia’ is a modern take on this classic murder mystery but I advise everyone to watch Rear Window first! The film stars James Stewart as professional photographer L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies who is recuperating from a broken leg and is therefore confined to his apartment. In order to bide time, Jefferies spies on his neighbours using his binoculars and finds himself witness to a potential murder. This film is memorable for its ideas about surveillance, our interest in other people’s lives and the interesting use of cinematic ‘point of view,’ positioning the audience as a voyeur looking in from Jeff’s restricted perspective.
“We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms”
“People do a lot of things in private they couldn’t possibly explain in public”
Credit: Last Podcast Network
Winner of best picture at the 2017 Oscars, Moonlight is a coming-of-age drama written and directed by Barry Jenkins. The film explores three stages of the main character’s life and their struggle with sexuality and identity within a socio-economic disadvantaged community. Moonlight is unique within the coming-of-age genre as it depicts the problems that minorities face alongside personal struggles. Moonlight not only deals with sexuality, but it questions masculinity and societal traditions that are imposed on youthful African-Americans. Trust me, after watching this film, you will feel something that you might not have felt before.
“At some point you’ve got to decide for yourself who you gonna be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you”
“You ain’t got to love me, but you gonna know that I love you”
This 1991 psychological horror-thriller, directed by Jonathan Demme, is the first classified horror film to have won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The American Film Institute ranked Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter as the greatest film heroine and villain respectively. Starling, played by Jodie Foster, is a FBI trainee who seeks advice from Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in order to capture another serial killer named “Buffalo Bill.” The film is memorable for not holding back and explores themes of manipulation, cunning and the nature of evil.
“All good things to those who wait”
“I’m having an old friend for dinner”
Credit: Den of Geek
Another Alfred Hitchcock film that needs to be on this list is his 1960 film, ‘Psycho.’ ‘Psycho’ is a psychological-horror film that broke cinematic and social boundaries. Hitchcock pushed the limits of acceptability through his unfiltered portrayal of violence and sexuality. His use of the camera and lighting influenced the future of cinematography as he used certain techniques to manipulate the audience and convey suspense. Bernard Herrmann’s soundtrack of screeching violins, violas and cellos also became renowned as a result of the famous shower scene.
“We all go a little mad sometimes”
“They’ll see and they’ll know and they’ll say, “Why, she wouldn’t even harm a fly”
Credit: IB Film Blog
The 2001 French romantic comedy directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a must-see film for those who don’t mind a few subtitles. The film is known for its dream-like aesthetic and whimsical portrayal of modern Parisian life. The main character, Amelie, played by Audrey Tautou, decides one day to discretely lend a helping hand to others and alter their lives for the better. This film will entrance everyone who watches it as it delves the viewer into the fantastical world in which she has created for herself.
“A woman without love wilts like a flower without a sun”
“It’s better to help people than garden gnomes”
“Only a fool looks at a finger that points to the sky”
Credit: Film Daily
Peter Weir (Picnic at Hanging Rock, Witness) directed one of the most innovative, moving and humorous films ever made. This is one of my ultimate favourite films and I would be surprised if you hadn’t seen it. Jim Carrey stars as Truman Burbank who has been adopted and raised by a television corporation that has filmed him since the day he was born. However, he is completely unaware. Similar to Rear Window, this movie deals with our need to watch other people’s lives and is particularly relevant in the reality TV obsessed world that we live in today.
“You were real…that’s what made you so good to watch”
“We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented. It’s as simple as that”
“Good morning, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and goodnight”
Credit: Slash Film
One of Tim Burton’s best films, ‘Edward Scissorhands,’ is a childhood favourite for me. For those who unfortunately haven’t seen it, Johnny Depp stars as Edward, a Frankenstein-like creation who has scissors for hands. The film is a story about a quirky, scary looking outsider who enters a pastel-coloured, conformist, suburban town in which he blatantly does not fit in. The film can be described as a dark fairytale as it depicts both the brutality of people and the love and kindness of others. The film also expresses people’s tendency to dislike the unusual and, similar to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, demonstrates our rush to blame others based on personal prejudice as opposed to good reason.
“No matter what, Edward will always be special”
“People are afraid of me because I am different”
“We’re not sheep”
Now this is a rom-com that everyone is guaranteed to enjoy as it has every little ingredient. ‘Love Actually,’ directed by Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones Diary, Notting hill), follows the lives of several couples whose stories intertwine in the month leading up to Christmas. Not only is the film a Christmas classic but it is also a classic within the romantic-comedy genre. The film is memorable not only for its witty script, humour and heart but also in the way that it says a lot of things about the relationships we have.
“If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around”
“The thing about romance is people only get together right at the very end”
“I had an uncle called Terence once. Hated him. I think he was a pervert. But I very much like the look of you.”
Credit: Brooklyn Magazine
Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’ is an American Crime film like no other. ‘Pulp Fiction’ is memorable for its ironic combination of humour and violence, it’s screenplay and elements of pastiche. The film is set in Los Angeles, follows several characters and storylines and was inspired by the graphic violence and punchy dialogue of the popular mid-20th century pulp magazines. The accidents within the film constitute the disjointed nature of the plot and Tarantino does this to show how chance governs us and is a contributing factor to how we formulate our ethical views. Also: Listen to the soundtrack on Spotify.
“If my answers frighten you, then you should cease asking scary questions”
“Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.”
Credit: Videology Bar and Cinema
This 1975 film directed by Miloš Forman is an American comedy-drama starring Jack Nicholson. The film follows Randle McMurphy: a criminal who after serving a short sentence at a prison farm is moved to a mental institution, despite not being mentally ill. The film won all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay). I don’t want to say too much about this film so I am just telling you that you must see it.
“Which one of you nuts has got any guts”
“I’m a goddamn marvel of modern science”
Credit: Plymouth Arts Centre
Three years before Rob Reiner directed ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ he directed a film which I would describe as perfect. ‘Stand by Me’ is a coming-of-age comedy-drama that is based on Stephen Kings 1982 novella ‘The Body.’ The film takes the viewer on a journey with four young boys who go on a hike in hopes of finding a dead body of another boy. The film is timeless as it explores youthful friendship, how to cope with grief, adolescence and fear of facing change.
“This is my age! I’m in the prime of my youth, and I’ll only be young once!”
“Suck my fat one, you cheap dime-store hood”
“We’d only been gone for two days but somehow the town seemed different”
Credit: The Wrap
Up in Flames
Season Two successfully entered into a new chapter of June’s life and proved that the show has scope beyond Margaret Atwood’s novel.This season has been particularly gruelling and taxing as a multitude of horrific scenes have left the viewer feeling depleted. In each episode the show has caused us to lose faith in humanity. We are constantly confronted with the brutality of those in power and the blind acceptance of the lower ranks. It is difficult to gain hope as there are moments in which the viewer may feel that certain characters can be redeemed, yet the writers demolish that prospect. In watching The Handmaid’s Tale Season Two, I would recommend to view it in doses as opposed to binging. However, in saying this, the second season has delivered an extremely clever plot line depicted through masterful cinematography that is nevertheless, highly engaging and entertaining. Unlike manyHollywood television shows, The Handmaid’s Tale does not sugar coat its themes and approaches each episode with a stark realism. The finale certainly did not disappoint in regards to its shock value, heightened tension and gravitas. However, was it the right ending? The three major themes in the season’s finale are parenting, female empowerment and change.
The finale explores the responsibility of parents in providing a safe and loving environment for their children. In the greenhouse scene, June asks Serena, “Are you going to lock her up like an orchid?” This particular line is important to Serena’s character as there is a continual theme of her in the greenhouse trying to grow and nurture things and often with little success. A greenhouse, however, is an artificial environment. Orchids only grow in humid climates, therefore, the greenhouse is given a certain temperature for it to grow. This recurrent theme linksto the artificiality of Gilead and the idea that things do not grow naturally within this world. The image of the baby within the greenhouse is symbolic as Serena’s world is finally complete. The Greenhouse is her space and whenever anyone enters, it is an intrusion. However, the world that she built for herself is unstable and cannot protect the baby. In Gilead, there is no protection.
Soon after this scene, we see Nick and June finally embracing their daughter together. This moment is bittersweet as it gives us a taste of what Holly’s life could be. Following Serena’s encounter with June, Serena asks Naomi Putnam whether she worries about their children’s future. Naomi replies, “I put my faith in Gilead.” Serena pushes further by asking, “Do you think the other women share our concerns?” Both Serena and Naomi are interested in hearing the other women’s opinions. In this scene, change is brewing as women’s opinions start to matter.
Despite the series tendency to build a false sense of hope for change, the finale shows a shift in attitude to the regime, even from its most dedicated believers. In the finale, we discover that Erin has written notes on pages of the bible which is forbidden. This discovery propels a fire in Serena as she begins to realise that children should be allowed to read the word of the bible to understand God and show their faith. The episodes title, “The Word,” encapsulates the power of words; of speaking up. The finale centres on female empowerment and the need for change, arguing that a woman’s word is equal to anyone else’s. This urge to speak is epitomised when Serena and the wives propose an amendment. Serena says, “Thank you for allowing me to speak” before stating, “We believe that our sons and daughters should be taught to read it.” The men at the desk view this as a “radical proposal,” yet Serena defies the men by reading the bible. For Serena, this is not out of character. In the time before, she was always a rebel. In return for her word, Serena’s finger is cut off. Serena is not as powerful as she would like to think she is. This is clear when the commander states, “Rules can be bent for a higher ranking” however, only he has the power to choose which rules should be bent.
One of the most shocking scenes in the finale would have to be Emily stabbing Aunt Lydia. We see Emily laughing and smiling afterwards. She feels a sense of liberation, however, this is overturned when she begins to realise the ramifications of her action. We still do not know at this point whether her new Commander, Joseph Lawrence, is good or bad. Towards the end of the episode we see Emily at the back of a car. Happy music is contrasted with Emily’s anxiety and anguish. The show really knows how to make you feel uncomfortable.
From this point onwards, the tension rises. There is a feeling of change, yet the viewer does not know where it will ignite. The central themes of the episode reach a peak in the last few scenes. There is a new sense of hope that is different to any other kind that we have witnessed in the show. We see a house on fire in the street. This appears to distract the guardians. Nick has stepped up his game and is no longer afraid as he subtly threatens Commander Waterford with a gun, blocking him from any movement. We see Rita forcing June to leave with the baby. However, the biggest obstacle is Serena. June confronts Serena stating, “She cannot grow up in this place… I know how much you love her.” This scene is gut-wrenching and highly tense as we do not know how Serena will react. However, it becomes clear that they have finally achieved a mutual understanding. The baby is safer outside of Serena’s greenhouse; outside of Gilead. After this encounter, we witness a whole network of Martha’s helping June escape. There appears to be an underground of people working against the forces of Gilead. Emily’s Commander, too, is part of this underground network. For the first time in the whole series, hope seems to be restored for good. Real change is underway.
In regards to the finale’s ending, critics argue that it may lead to a disappointing trajectory. June hands over the baby to Emily, asking her to “Call her Nicole.” June’s last expression shows to us that she will be a vigilante in the third season. June is not done with Gilead. She is not ready to leave behind Hannah and Nick. She feels empowered. She knows that there is a network. This time, there is real chance for change. Whether this is the right ending or not, the writers of the show have not let us down so far. Why should we assume that Season Three will not be as well-executed and as engaging as the first two? I guess we will have to wait until 2019 to make those judgments.
Fountains of light shimmered from the glassy skyscrapers across the deep blue water that engulfed the city. People were buzzing, shuffling, snuffling hurriedly to wherever they needed to be. Purpose is what keeps us going. Not many people acknowledge passing people. It’s hard to find a smile and when it comes, it surprises you. Little things all add up to create the big things that shape us.
A Final Goodbye?
Throughout Season 2, each episode has explored power: the tyranny of those who have it, the disempowerment of all women and the feeling of hope and hopelessness intertwined. Episode 10 stands out amongst the others as the most horrific episode to date. Gilead is depicted as its most brutal through a number of gut-wrenching scenes that leave the viewer feeling depleted. The episode is so disturbing and ominous that it is hard to watch in one sitting as all aspects of the world of Gilead are heightened, bringing tension to its peak. There are two main features that are explored: the upending of rituals and final goodbyes.
The episode begins with Emily enduring her Commander’s monthly routine, accompanied by June’s voice as she measuredly lists ways to deal with the ritual rape, stating that one must detach themselves and “treat it like a job” in order to cope. For the Handmaids, this is commonplace. For the viewer, it still feels impossible to see the normality in it. By witnessing the Handmaids succumb and accept this routine, the viewer voyeuristically observes the cruelty and immorality on another level. The beginning scene is incredibly hard to watch. However, the mood shifts when the Commander begins to have a heart attack. YES! This scene is important, as it breaks down the ritual as commonplace when Emily upends the rules. The Wife asks Emily to call an ambulance, yet Emily replies, “Chances are better if I lay on my back afterwards” using the ritual against her oppressor.
The upending of rituals is further evident in the birth ceremony sequence. We see a flood of Handmaids entering and placing pillows on the bed, the Marthas are arranging flowers around the house, Serena and the wives are gathered in a separate room together breathing ridiculously with a harp playing in the background, whilst the men stand in Waterford’s office downing whiskey and smoking cigars. Everyone knows their place. Though the ritual is quickly overturned when we realise that it is a false labour. Serena storms in and stares down June, who is sitting on the bed with a smug smile. Did June fake the labour herself? We may never know.
If there was any hope that June and Serena would be able to form a civil relationship – as civil as can be under these circumstances – this episode demolishes it. Often we feel sympathy for Serena yet hate her all over again. Serena insists that June should be induced, and this leads us to the most horrific scene yet. There is a lot of non-consensual sex in The Handmaid’s Tale, however, the performative nature of the ritual and the Handmaids’ behaviour causes us to view each rape scene a little bit differently to other scenes television offers us. The ritual is upended in this case as Serena and the Commander violently rape June in order to help the baby to be born naturally. June’s monologue comes back into play as we gradually see her detach herself, stating in the end, “I’m not here”. June is virtually out of her body; expressionless. One of the most horrifying elements of this scene is the fact that June personally pleas to Serena during the ordeal. Yet, Serena’s merciless and callous response is an unbelievable betrayal.
You cannot help but think that this is the last time we will see June in this house. The episodes title, “The Last Ceremony”, may encompass all aspects of her life in Gilead as there are many instances where it may feel like the last time: the last birth ceremony, the last time the Commander rapes her, the last time she sees her daughter and possibly a final goodbye to Nick. The reunion and goodbye scene between June and her daughter Hannah has got to be the most heart-breaking of the entire series. There is a rawness and realness in this encounter that is so difficult to achieve and palate. Moss’ acting is at its most superb. At first Hannah is hesitant, however, as the conversation ensues, they find their way back to each other. Hannah asks, “Am I ever going to see you again?”, and June responds with a smile stating, “I’m gonna try”. Yes, tears were in the works in this scene.
The Last Ceremony leaves a number of questions unanswered. In the last few minutes, we see guards approaching the house, Nick thrown into a van and a birds-eye view shot of June walking alone in the forest. These events occur in such rapid succession that it is hard to discern what is happening. Is there a bitter-sweet sense of hope in the ending? Did the Commander set Nick and June up by sending the guards to the home? Would the Commander intentionally abandon June considering that he knows it is not his baby? I guess we will have to wait and find out next week.
Favourite quote: “I shouldn’t have expected you to understand. You have no idea what it is like to have a child of your own flesh and blood… and you never will.”
[Credit: The Weekly Standard]
Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin, is an eccentric and quirky absurdist comedy that explores the machinations of senior members of the Soviet Communist Party as they each strive for power in the aftermath of Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953. The satirical director is best known for his Emmy Award winning television series ‘Veep’ which similarly delves into the comic interplay between politicians as they deceive and swindle in order to keep face. Iannucci has the unique ability to manipulate the audience’s emotions and expectations and successfully achieves this in The Death of Stalin through the use of black humour and slapstick in order to make historically horrific events seem hilarious. The film is cleverly scripted, however, the humour would not so effectively be achieved if it weren’t for the beautifully nuanced performances brought by the star-studded cast. There are Pythonesque elements to a fair amount of the humour and this is especially evoked in the funeral scene where each of the politicians play Chinese whispers around the coffin in a fight for status.
The film stars Steve Buscemi as the minister of Agriculture, Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev proves to be the most appealing or less seemingly vindictive character amongst his fellow cronies such as Lavrenti Beria played by Simon Russel Beale. Buscemi brings a persuasive realism to his character and is oddly likeable as we witness him telling jokes to his wife and hurriedly throwing a jacket and pants over his pyjamas when meeting to assess Stalin’s body. The three standout characters, however, are Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), Field Marshal Zhukov hilariously portrayed by Jason Isaacs and Joseph Stalin’s highly-strung son Vasily (Rupert Friend). Malenkov, who temporarily assumes leadership over both the party and Council of Ministers, is terribly pale at the prospect and is more concerned with his physical appearance than the collusions of his peers. This absurd obsession is depicted throughout the film as Tambor fusses over himself in a photo shoot and asks which portrait looks better when they are virtually the same.
Jason Isaacs portrayal of Field Marshal Zhukov is as hilarious as it is frighteningly unpredictable. This is seen in the trailer when Isaacs presents a hard, serious face, whilst threatening to report his conversation with Khrushchev, then suddenly breaks into laughter with the line, “Look at your fookin’ face.” Zhukov is also the only man who shows not a quiver of cowardice and in regards to Beria states, “I fooked Germany. I think I can take a fresh lump in a fookin’ waistcoat.” Vasily Stalin, played by Rupert Friend, steals the show in every scene that he is in. Vasily is seen to take after his father’s dictatorial qualities and this becomes clear when he is first introduced on screen on an ice-hockey rink, yelling to the players “play better you clattering fannies!” Vasily Stalin’s highly aggressive and violent nature adds another comic element to the film as it seems that he has more alcohol in his system than he has brains.
In many ways, The Death of Stalin is a farce, however the film has a mordant quality. Iannucci positions the audience to laugh at the small-mindedness of the men who perform cruelty rather than the cruelty itself. An interesting element of the film is the paradoxical sense of realism within the absurdity. Iannucci creates his own reality as the actor’s dialect remains the same, creating a Brechtian alienation by making the familiar seem strange: Steve Buscemi sticks to his Brooklyn accent whilst Jason Isaac depicts the Russian military leader as a Yorkshire man. Although this directorial choice may seem unnatural and risky, it somehow works and the audience adapts almost immediately. The decision to incorporate a variety of accents may also suggest the boundless nature of totalitarianism. An uninformed audience will definitely enjoy the film and it is not essential to have contextual knowledge, however, I cannot help feeling that are more comprehensive knowledge of Russian politics in the period in which it is set will lead to a greater appreciation of the film.
The Death of Stalin is a must-see, unforgettable film that is a stand out in the genre of black comedy as it presents a sub-genre of this kind that is rarely seen in film: a satire that follows real-life historical events. The film parodies these true events in detail, and although the film is not completely historically accurate, it succeeds in reflecting the terrifyingly real aspects of society and the brutal hunger for power in political systems. Despite its parodic elements, the film has a powerful edge. It’s casual brutality and heightened familiarity serves two purposes: to make us laugh and to make us think.
Episode four “Other Women” is outstandingly menacing and horrific as the director, Kari Skogland, explores the psyche of June in depth, introducing a new mode of freedom. Throughout both seasons, June has consistently demonstrated a strength of mind, will and determination. Her character embodies the power of women and their love for not only their family but of themselves. It is this aspect of June that sustains the audience’s engagement with her character as there is a continued sense of hope in regards to her mental wellbeing and anticipative escape. However, Episode Four is ground-breaking in the way that it shatters these ideas, replacing strength of mind with weakness of will. The episode begins with June’s deliverance to Gilead and her impending return to the Waterford’s home. Both June and the viewer are back to square one. The opening scene demonstrates an image of imprisonment whereby she must either remain in the dark room, confined to a bed or choose to return as a Handmaid. This theme of entrapment is symbolised by the familiar red dress that hangs before her. The dress represents two mindsets: Freedom for Offred or imprisonment of June.
The title of this episode, ‘Other Women,’ is central to the themes that unravel. Throughout the episode, the director deals with the nature of women and the way in which their emotions manifest. The baby shower scene is important as it shows that women choose to ritualise something in order to normalise the situation. The ritual of the baby shower is set up to normalise the fact that it is not Serena’s baby. June decides to take control of the situation and breaks the ritual by stating, “I felt the baby kick for the first time last night.” The women are hesitant to respond as the rhythm of the ritual is disturbed, yet eventually reply with “Praise be.” This particular scene is essential to the depiction of women as it shows that in order for them to cope in this environment, they must simply forget and normalise new conditions of being.
The nature of women’s sentiments is explored further with the introduction of another female character. In this episode, it is revealed that June and Luke’s relationship surfaced during Luke’s previous marriage to Annie. It is clear that Luke’s feelings for June are sincere, however, the director chooses to sympathise with the pain and hurt that Annie is experiencing. From an audience perspective, neither June nor Annie seem at fault. June cannot change the fact that she is in love with Luke and Annie is not afraid to speak up and say how she truly feels. It is the interaction between these two characters which demonstrates the notion that women are not designed to bottle up emotions. However, in the dystopian Gilead, the strategy of suppressing one’s feelings appears to be a coping mechanism that goes against women’s true nature.
June’s interaction with other women in this episode also has a great impact on June’s psyche. Guilt is a major theme in Episode Four and this manifests through June’s dealings with Annie, the other handmaid’s and ultimately Aunt Lydia. The use of flashback to show her and Annie’s dispute is employed to depict the guilt that she felt, despite not being able to change her feelings towards Luke. Further to this, when June notices the burns on Ofrobert’s hand and discovers that Ofglen’s tongue had been cut off, she instantly feels guilt as it was her who instigated speaking up for Ofwarren at the end of last season.
Throughout the episode, June’s feeling of guilt is developed and reaches a climax when she is confronted with the hanging body of Omar whom she persuaded to help her escape. It is this scene that is the most harrowing as June finally hits a wall. Aunt Lydia’s character in this scene is extremely complex as she embodies a mother-like persona by kissing June on the forehead and hugging her, yet uses this technique to manipulate and indoctrinate June. This relationship also alludes to Big Brother in ‘1984’ and the way in which society was brainwashed into viewing this figure as a father that they should love. From the start of Season One, Aunt Lydia tried to get rid of June by changing her name to Offred. In this episode, she is attempting to get rid of June altogether: “June did this…not Offred…Offred is free from blame… Offred does not have to bare June’s guilt.”
In both seasons, the inner dialogue of June is always about survival, rebellion and hanging onto her identity. She understands that the moment she loses her sense of self, she is gone. The flashbacks therefore keep her grounded to her identity, whilst reminding the viewer of who she was. However, in the final scenes of this episode, we see her sense of self deteriorate as she mutters “my fault” repeatedly to herself and states “I am not worthy yet” to the commander and his wife. She has discovered a new form of freedom and escapism and that is to lose herself. Freedom from Gilead infers freedom from herself. The meaning of freedom has shifted and this shift is demonstrated in the last low-angle shot as she looks blankly at the camera with the repeated line “We’ve been sent good weather” accompanying the image. Her inner dialogue has also shifted. She is now Offred.