Margaret Atwood – A Word after a Word after a Word is Power is a pretty linear documentary about the life of the writer and activist. It starts from her early days living outside Ottawa, getting a home education from her mother. Only having books as a source of entertainment, writing was a calling that went and came back to her.
A more formal education took her both to Canada and the United States. As a young woman she carried herself with an unwavering confidence despite of how both countries segregated their citizens by gender. Archive photos show this younger Atwood, observing as much as her male classmates observed her. Her fresh eyes made her an astute observer on the social trends of her time.
She uses her astute qualities to point out trends within Canadian culture at a time when we were trying to figure out our national identity. This movie is a reminder of such hallmarks, of a perspective on who the heroes and the villains are in the perpetual war that humans have against nature.
There’s also archive footage here of men talking to their secretaries, a job Atwood would have had had she settled for less. Asking for more or for anything from publishers was an uphill climb. The movie gets her to recall her frustration with early publishers, moments that she now looks back on with a sense of humor.
“None of us are paragons of virtue,” Atwood says. There’s an irony in that statement though, since the movie sees her that way. I’m a fan of her, within reason, but this becomes a boring film that puts her on a pedestal. It eventually shows her ideas through television adaptations of her work instead of actually having a nuanced conversation with her. Which sucks.
Atwood presence waxes and wanes in this movie in an unsatisfying way. It resorts to talking heads of her friends who would describe her initial quietness before speaking through her work. She does that with The Handmaid’s Tale. I would have loved to see and hear her process more. Instead, we get that insight through some diluted second hand accounts.
The movie’s third act is a mish mash of story lines, mostly focusing on The Handmaid’s Tale’s cultural impact. It also shows how artists adapting Atwood’s work make her dystopic vision come alive through costumes and whatnot. This section also covers her real life activism. Here, she says two words that slightly made me lose respect for her, and I wished this examined that.
For more information on Margaret Atwood – A Word after a Word after a Word is Power go to https://www.whitepinepictures.com/margaret-atwood.
- Release Date: 11/7/2019