Criticism: Criticism of “Margaret Atwood: A Word After a Word After a Word is Power”, a documentary of Nancy Lang and Peter Raymont (Hulu)

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No big flashes formal, this portrait of the revered canadian author is destined almost exclusively to their fans.

Margaret Atwood: A Word After a Word After a Word is Power (Canada/2019). Address: Nancy Lang, Peter Raymont. Photography: John Westheuser. Animation: Charlie Shekter. Edit: Cathy Gulkin and Kathryn Lyons. Sound: Peter Sawade. Music: Todor Kobakov. Narration: Tatiana Maslany Duration: 92 minutes. Documentary available on Hulu, platforms available for hire (depending on the country) and already circulating on the Internet.

The detractors will say that it is too “classic”, “conventional”, “square”, “tv” or limited by the style. And, while it is true that this film has almost no finding as author, so, too, is that it is a musta proposal essential for those who admire the work and the public positions of Margaret Atwood.

The camera of Nancy Lang and Peter Raymont follows the now octogenarian author in his travels throughout the world, in its participations in different gears (it’s an old feminist activist and in the defence of the environment), in his brilliant lectures full of irony and truths, and in the promotional tour for his new book Wills. But, while exhibiting his inexhaustible activity public, it also invites us to immerse ourselves in their privacy: from their unconventional techniques for writing, to the relationship with those friends, and friends that remains from the youth, with his literary agent of all life and the great love of his life (the writer Graeme Gibson).

The rich past, the long history of the writer are also reconstructed in this documentary-tribute to and glorifying, which is always a eulogy and does not recognize too many folds, doubts, contradictions or miseries in your protagonist (heroine). For example, we see Atwood travel with his then-roomate Susan Milmoe of the facilities of the University of Harvard, where it formed, and explain that there, in different buildings of the campus, is set, in part, the Gilead of her mythical novel The tale of the maid (The Handmaid’s Tale).

Precisely the series and films based on his works occupy a good part of the second half of the documentary and, in that sense, they appear from Sarah Poley (who adapted Alias Grace) to Elisabeth Moss, star of the series for Hulu based on The story of the maid. One of the most cherished moments of the film is when the own Atwood attends the filming in Toronto and not only follows closely the shots but ends up involved with a cameo (a slap to the character of June that had to repeat dozens of times because they are not encouraged to take it with the violence required). And talks with Moss behind the scenes of the filming are hilarious.

Near the end he discusses the influence of Atwood and The Handmaid’s Tale in the contemporary women’s movement and, among the multiple images compiled, appear some young activists argentinian dressed as the maids of the book and the series in a performance in front of the national Congress in Buenos Aires.

In this patchwork of sound and visual live together -not always with the same harmony and effectiveness – from paintings and animations to multiple archival materials (there are very nice pictures about the bohemia of the ’60s in Canada) and the use of a voice-over by actress Tatiana Maslany who reads different poems of Atwood. The solemnity and reverential which is escalating in the last few minutes are in conflict with the welcome black humor, and the fine handling of irony that during several passages of the film makes gala this brilliant intellectual and an artist.

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