The Crucible

May 26, 2009
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The Crucible Movie Review

Picture yourself in a court hearing of the accusation of witchcraft against your neighbor. You know she is far from a witch, but do not testify because the fear of yourself being accused stands in the way. Instead, you watch the “afflicted” girls scream that your neighbor’s spirit is choking them. If she refuses to confess to witchcraft, she will be hanged, and if she does confess, she will be jailed. A film based on Arthur Miller’s famous play, “The Crucible” does a remarkable job of putting you in the position of most people during the Salem Witch Trials. You can hear their hearts racing and almost feel their fear and frustration. The movie gives us a clear understanding of the events of the Salem Witch Trials and leaves us petrified.

The cast was one of the best I have ever encountered. They all gave great performances but most specifically Daniel Day Lewis’ role as a brave farmer named John Proctor. Others were Winona Ryder as Abigail Williams, Paul Scofield as Judge Danforth, and Oscar nominated Joan Allen as Elizabeth Proctor. It was unreal how much energy and personality the cast brought to the film. The director, Nicholas Hytner, did a pretty good job on this film, but certainly not his best. The screenplay, written by Arthur Miller, was not what I expected at all. Arthur Miller wrote his play “The Crucible”, based on his firsthand experience with the Communist hunt known as McCarthyism but the screenplay failed to focus on politics whatsoever. It made the screenplay somewhat simple-minded.

“The Crucible” begins with a group of girls led by Tituba, a black servant, gathered in the forest dropping items into a pot. As the items drop, each of the girls say a boy’s name as Tituba conjures up a love spell. Reverend Parris catches the girls in the midst of chanting and dancing, and they quickly flee. The next morning, two girls will not wake up. The paranoid town of Salem’s immediate explanation for this is witchcraft. When questioned about the previous night, Abigail blames Tituba. Tituba confesses and starts accusing others. Abigail and the rest of the girls join in and begin accusing people they hate. Abigail names Elizabeth Proctor because she and John used to have an affair, but he ended it to be with his wife. Since Abigail is still madly in love with John, she plans to use her new authority to get rid of Elizabeth.

A scene that I enjoyed was the testimony between Elizabeth, John, and Abigail. The acting was spectacular and suspense was built up. Another scene that was impressive was when they were crushing Giles Corey with the rocks as he struggled to say “more weight.” It gave a true depiction of the heroism during the 17th Century witch hunt.

The film concludes with a powerful message and the music played at the end was an excellent touch. Although I was not entirely pleased with the screenplay, the acting made up for it. The costumes and settings were “just what the doctor ordered” and gave a great image of the 17th century.

“The Crucible” runs 124 minutes long. It is PG-13 for brief nudity, violence, and intense depiction of the Salem Witch Trial so is recommended for audiences 12 years or older





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