Colin Watkinson Q&A: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ cinematographer

“It unsettles the viewer,” reveals cinematographer Colin Watkinson about his work on Hulu’s hit dystopian drama series “The Handmaid’s Tale.” During our recent webcam chat (watch the exclusive video above), the DP explains, “The subject matter itself is bleak, but a lot of the time we would do a shot that was really beautiful … [but] the viewer is slightly unnerved. They’re looking at one thing, thinking in one way, but it’s actually another, because they are looking at something really beautiful but it actually isn’t.”

In “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which is based on the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, Elisabeth Moss stars as Offred, one the few fertile women who have become enslaved as handmaids by the barren ruling class in the oppressive authoritarian theocracy of Gilead. It is a bleak and unsettling plot that is executed in a hauntingly beautiful way, as the handmaids roam around austere snowscapes in their flowing red gowns and crisp white bonnets. Watkinson relished the opportunity to lure audiences in with gorgeous imagery while engaging them in the story being told. “People like looking at beautiful images, but the story is so important. What they’re looking at and engaging with is what becomes important,” he explains. “It has to take you in there.”

Arguably some of the most uncomfortable scenes in “The Handmaid’s Tale” were the disturbing Gilead sex scenes, dubbed as “ceremonies” on the show. Offred is forced at regular intervals to submit to her Commander (Joseph Fiennes) and awkwardly participate in perfunctory intercourse while his resentful wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) looks on, clenching Offred from behind. Watkinson and his crew shot those scenes in very particular ways, to elicit certain responses from the audience. “We tried to let the viewer feel what Offred was experiencing. Unfortunately for Yvonne we would shoot up Yvonne’s nose, across Offfed’s body and we would shoot the ceiling, to try to put you right in there,” he reveals. “And then you come out [in a wide shot] and you see this very uncomfortable scene and we would shoot that in the Gilead way of very formal framings. It was always to unnerve the viewer at all times, with this particularly barbaric ritual.”

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UPLOADED Jul 14, 2017 7:05 pm