“The Crucible”: 1996 Film

Sometimes things do work out, unexpectedly, as they did for Arthur Miller. After Death of a Salesman was first filmed and The Misfits was taken out of his hands, Arthur Miller swore off writing screenplays for movies having lost control of what happened to his works and ideas. But The Crucible, which many said couldn’t be filmed, eventually seamlessly transferred to the screen with director Nicholas Hytner who added appropriate visuals to what Miller had written and deferred to his idol throughout the two month shooting process.

For sure, the movie was a labour of love with Hytner’s faithfulness to the screenplay and clever opening up of the once-controversial 1952 stageplay and with production in the hands of Miller’s son Robert who found a surprisingly¬†understanding¬†distributor, Twentieth Century Fox, which basically took a hands-off approach to the realization of the author’s property.

Just about everything else also worked out well for this production including the casting–Daniel Day Lewis as Procter, Joan Allen as his wife, Winona Ryder as Abigail, and Paul Scofield as Judge Danforth–the sets on Hog Island close to Salem, the shooting weather which enhanced the gloomy tragic atmosphere, and the strong direction of the play’s dramatic scenes including, notably,¬†the yellow bird climax, the final scene between Procter and his wife, and the madness flare-ups.

The widescreen DVD is a must for anyone wanting to see this movie and it includes interesting bonus features: interviews with Miller and Lewis and a featurette. The commentary track by Miller and the director fills in everything you want or need to know about the play, its context, and the film. With the current phony ‘witch hunt’ and war on truth in Washington, this film has once again shown its relevance and its insights are still timeless and insightful. The movie and play remain idea-works of art, first and foremost, and challenge viewers to form opinions about truth and lies, performance and reality, hypocrisy and true morality. Highly recommended. The best adaptation of any of Miller’s plays.

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