The CrucibleHD Closed Captioning
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The Salem witch trials of 1692 are brought vividly to life in this compelling adaptation of Arthur Miller's play, directed by Nicholas Hytner ("The Madness of King George"). A group of teenage girls meet in the woods at midnight for a secret love-conjuring ceremony. While the other girls attempt to cast love spells, Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder) wishes for the death of her former lover's (Daniel Day-Lewis) wife. When their ceremony is witnessed by the town minister, the girls suddenly find themselves accused of witchcraft. Soon the entire village is consumed by cries of witchcraft, and as the hysteria grows, blameless victims are torn from their homes, leading to a devastating climax.
Could have been called The Excruciating. If ever you were after a reason to make religion history, here it is. The religious fanaticism of the Massachusetts community of the 17th century is so extreme that its judiciary is prepared to forsake reason, logic and fair-mindedness in its relentless pursuit of so-called demonic influence. So much so, that the presiding court depicted in this film allows itself to be unduly influenced by a group of silly teenage girls who do what teenage girls do so well - lie, act, cheat, anything that deflects guilt from themselves. As a result, innocent and upstanding members of the community are put to death.
If director Hytner set out to demonstrate the inanity of religious zealotry, he achieved it without qualification. Unfortunately, along the way, the audience has to endure some boring, laboured scenes with monologues spoken in the dialect of the time, which are uncomfortable to the modern ear and thus exacerbate the desire for the film to come to its close. Daniel Day Lewis is, of course, a consummate actor whose commitment to his character so outshines the efforts of the rest of this very good cast that the film feels unbalanced, with other actors trying their best to redress the situation yet managing only to overplay their role. Winona Ryder is a very good example. A delightful actor in the right role (ie GIrl, interrupted) but here just trying so hard she ends up being whiny and annoying.
As a period piece, this film serves a valuable reference point to how far christian society has come since the days of burning and hanging its members for so-called acts of witchcraft. Then again, as western governments continue to demonise those who don't agree with their ideology, perhaps society hasn't come that far after all.