The Cruicible - Daniel Day-Lewis
Sometimes you get the perfect combination of great acting, great dialogue, great plot and a great environment. I really feel the Cruicible manages to get all of those components right to form an incredible movie that gains in value from each rewatching.
First, the plot. Daniel is John Proctor, a man in 1600s Salem, Massachusetts who has been unfaithful to his wife. He slept with the teen girl Abigail (Winona Ryder). Although the affair is over, things are still not good in John's home. Abigail still pines for John. So when a group of girls go out to dance in the woods and cast love potions, Abigail wishes for John's wife to die.
The girls are caught by the minister, accusations of witchcraft begin to surface, and to divert suspicion the teen girls begin to accuse other women in the neighborhood of being witches. A full blown witch hunt begins, and many women are killed based solely on the accusations of the group of teens. This is, sadly, all very true.
The play, by Arthur Miller, was written during the McCarthy era when communists and homosexuals were being routed out and destroyed by finger pointing. The play was a direct metaphor to help people see what was going on. It is scary that in our modern society we look back on the Salem witch trials as being a ridiculous thing that could never happen again - but only a few decades ago it DID happen. Did we not learn? Could it happen just as easily again in the future, given the right circumstances?
The acting in the movie is brilliant. Joan Allen, playing John's wife, got an Oscar nomination for her fine work. Even the smallest bits of dialogue are imbued with meaning. You really get a sense of the layers behind these people. You begin to understand how they live in a very rigid society, how they chafe at the rules, how they struggle to find meaning in what they do. Every person here has a valid motivation - and has human failings.
I found the scenery to be gorgeous. I love colonial times and outfits. The people really seemed to "be comfortable" in their wear, and there was a nice variety. You could imagine the elderly woman sitting and sewing her hat, adding on the lace to make it pretty. I do admit that I was struck with how *large* some of the houses were. I don't think they had giant houses like that back then :) It might be a small thing, but it kept seeming "wrong" as I watched the movie, sort of like watching a movie about medieval crusaders and having them check their watches.
Still, in general that is a minor complaint about a movie which is just beautiful to watch and get sucked into. I really feel this is a very valuable movie for everybody to see and understand and think about. We've already had this situation happen at least twice in the past few hundred years. We need to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Now as a sidebar, I have to confess I find Daniel Day-Lewis INCREDIBLY soulful in this movie. If I was Abigail, I would have fallen in love with him in a heartbeat and have been drawn to him passionately ...
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