Video Design Pre-Visualization Renderings

In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt argues that one of the ways in which totalitarian regimes ensure the continued domination of their subjects is through “monstrous forgeries in historiography” - the manipulation of their citizenry’s relationship to time, memory, and history. Jacques Derrida has termed this phenomenon mal d’archive - a fever in the archive or a violence against it.

It feels apropos, then, that Atwood’s original novel is contextualized as an archive - inside of which a battle is raging.

The video design aims to articulate this battle for time, for memory, and for truth, by pitting Gilead’s dystopian practices of rewriting history against the authentic but eroding memories of Offred. The Wall and its hanged bodies are stark symbols of Gileadean terror and warnings to all who would entertain thoughts of the Time Before. Offred’s memories are her own private rebellion, rushing in through cracks in time and recoiling again in the face of dystopian reality. For fleeting moments - the discovery of a Latin inscription, and in a brothel which has escaped historiographic manipulation - Gilead and the Time Before come crashing together.

The design utilizes the language of perishable archival materials - primarily photography and film - in homage to Atwood’s original context, to acknowledge that this narrative is inspired by actual historical occurrences and their records, and to build a language for visually articulating propaganda, preservation, decay, and obliteration.


“We’re supposed to look: this is what they are there for, hanging on the Wall.”

Bodies progress from wide framings of full human forms to close ups focused on the violence done to each form (ropes tying hands, cards around necks, hoods over faces) in order to dehumanize and to acknowledge the archival photos of lynchings on which the narrative is partially based.

Visual echoes, accumulations, and juxtapositions of bodies across scenes assist in indicating short and long passages of time as well as drawing viewer attention anew on each subsequent appearance.



I have them, these attacks of the past, like faintness, a wave sweeping over my head.”

“It’s like walking into the past,” says the Commander. “Don’t you think?” I try to remember if the past was exactly like this…I know it contained these things, but somehow the mix is different. A movie about the past is not the same as the past.

I remember this. There’s a rest area, gently lit in pinkish tones, with several easy chairs and a sofa, in a lime-green bamboo-shoot print, with a wall clock above it in a gold filigree frame.

Everything is the same, the very same as it was once upon a time. The drapes are the same, the heavy flowered ones that match the bedspread, orange poppies on royal blue, and the thin white ones to draw against the sun.”

Offred’s memories are filled with descriptions of textile, upholstery, and wallpaper patterns, and colors and qualities of light. Her flashback scenes are accompanied by digitized and manipulated textile fragments interspersed with rhythmic colored light leaks. Each memory journeys from an emotionally secure moment toward an emotionally agitated moment and an eventual explosive climax, rendered through the invasion of filmic scratches, cracks, bleeds, and burns. Just as Offred’s memories themselves briefly block out the dystopian realities of Gilead, the memory textures block out the Gileadean Wall before burning off to once again reveal the reality of the Republic.



“It pleases me to think I’m communing with her…that her taboo message made it through…washed itself up on the wall of my cupboard.”