The Crucible

The power of this tale has transferred admirably to the screen without losing any of its force. All of the actors give flawless performances under the direction of Nicholas Hytner (who has impressed us in the past with The Madness of King George). Arthur Miller wrote the screenplay based upon his stage hit of the 50's. He and Hytner have collaborated to create a work that has refashioned the play into an equally memorable film. It deals with the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts that took place in the late 17th century. A bunch of teenage girls are suspected of possession by the Devil and, under the leadership of Abigail Williams, they begin to terrorize the community with false accusations of witchcraft. And what a naughty girl that Abigail was, because, for those of you who don't know, the story is based upon fact, and Abigail was a young girl scorned by the married man she so desperately wanted. The names and places have not been changed to protect the guilty.

And there is a sharp double-edge to the tale. Miller found himself engulfed, as many other American citizens, in the relentless witch hunt of Senator Joe McCarthy and his House Committee on Un-American Activities in the 50's. McCarthy may have finally fallen by the wayside after having destroyed numerous lives, but the bigoted mentality driven to point a finger and place blame always manages to find roots in new soil. The tale is as topical now as it was then. As Miller himself says, 'The enemy is within, and within stays within.'

As magnificent as the art direction, the choice of location (Hog Island), the costuming and make-up, the cinematography and all elements contributing to the establishment of period may be, they create no distraction from the story itself, but rather enhance the presentation.

Daniel Day-Lewis delivers his typical brilliant performance, but with a cast including Winona Ryder, Paul Scofield, Joan Allen, Bruce Davison, Rob Campbell, Jeffrey Jones, Charlayne Woodard, Frances Conroy and Peter Vaughn all performing at top level, it even becomes difficult to single him out. Guess we'll just have to give superb points to the whole cast and add on more superb points for Arthur Miller and Nicolas Hynter. A must see.

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