The Crucible, representing the events that occurred in Salem, Massachusetts, in the Seventeenth century, is a film that was released on 27 November 1996 and it is based on Arthur Miller’s 1953 play bearing the same name. Some of the high-profile actors in the film include Daniel Day-Lewis (John Proctor), Winnona Ryder (Abigail Williams), and Bruce Davison (Reverend Samuel Parris). The notable Paul Scofield (Judge Thomas Danforth) and Joan Allen (Elizabeth Proctor) also play significant supporting roles in the movie.
The writer of the play version of the film, Arthur Miller, takes charge of the screenplay while Nicholas Hytner is the director. To portray the historical context of the movie, most of its scenes were shot on Hog Island in Esssex, Massachusetts. The movie serves as a symbol for the happenings in our contemporary society.
The movie commences with an apparently harmless occurrence. A group of young Salem village girls attends a secret meeting in the woods where they chant and dance, wishing for men that they would like to fall in love with. Tituba (Charlayne Woodard), a black American slave takes charge of the event as they accuse some residents of the village of practicing witchcraft. However, the ritual ceremony is cut short by the arrival of the village preacher Reverend Parris (Bruce Davison).
Consequently, as the lustful teenage girls try to escape, two of them lose their consciousness. The trouble makes everyone to start thinking that the girls were practicing witchcraft and a specialist in such matters, Reverend Hale (Rob Campbell), is sought after to look into the delicate matter.
In those times, anyone who was found to be practicing witchcraft was to be sentenced to death by hanging, if he or she did not admit to the offense.
Therefore, to save themselves from this sad end, the subversive teenagers plead for their lives to be preserved. Nonetheless, besides admitting to practicing witchcraft, the cohorts name other villagers whom they accuse of holding black Sabbaths and consorting with the devil. In a little while, with the coming of Judge Danforth and the town’s authorities, the teenagers now behave as if they are “servants of God.”
This makes them to be considered as reliable witnesses for the prosecution that is about to be carried out. In a cruel irony of twist, the residents whom they accused are taken into custody and the innocent who refuse to admit to the offense are sentenced to death by hanging. The one who instigated this make-believe episode was Abigail Williams. Her main intention was to ensure that Elizabeth Proctor dies so that she can have a relationship with her husband, John Proctor (Shmoop University, 77).
However, even though one time Abigail and John had been in a relationship, he refused to allow his former lover to take the position of his wife. John’s unwavering defense of his wife puts him in trouble and he is arrested as a witch. Consequently, he and others accused of the same offense are hanged.
The fictionalization of the events that took place in Salem in 1692 is a remarkable attempt by the filmmakers to show how these “witch hunts” can still exist in the contemporary world.
As much as they can take place currently in less severe forms, they can still be offensive. The Crucible, tackling various issues relating to finger pointing, demonstration of mass hysteria, and gossiping, uses the Salem Witch Trials so as to pass judgment on the society concerning these unfair practices.
The ease with which integrity can be stage-managed and distorted is represented by Abigail’s actions, as she not only plays God but also the residents of the village. However, as the movie is nearly ending, her eyes seems to depict her dreadfulness since her evil intentions are about to be made known.
The movie criticism of lack of reason when passing judgments and the desire to pass the blame on others is interpreted by many as a depiction of the House Committee on Un-American Activities investigations in which Miller himself was summoned to give his testimony before it in 1956. The investigation, which was led by Senator Joe McCarthy, was mandated to track down and expose individuals who were suspected of having communist compassions or associations (Zinn and Arnove, 378). Whereas those who were found guilty went scot free, several people endured severe damage to their reputation as they were falsely accused.
Besides the historical accuracy of the film, its rich themes, such as intolerance, thirst for recognition in the society, public and private moralities are universal in scope.
The allegorical depictions of the events in the film have continued to captivate viewers around the world. The Crucible speaks to everyone who resides in a society in which going contrary to the popular opinion makes one to suffer denunciation and unfair treatment.
It is important to note that as much as the movie is full of relevant themes to our current society, it would be dry and unattractive if it lacked characters and scenes that cannot captivate the viewers.
In fact, the human interest in the movie makes it to stand out. The plot of the movie has both heroes and villain. However, Hytner and Miller placed nothing to be in black in white. Abigail is the antagonist who serves as the spark that rekindles the fire of the suspicion in everyone’s mind.
Conversely, she is not driven by wickedness, but by a sheer mislaid priority of wanting someone’s husband. John Proctor, one of the honest people in the movie, is the protagonist who engages in an adulterous behavior that earns him his death (Bloom, 17). However, his mistakes portray his human side that is easy to identify with. The input of these characters, and others, was invaluable to the authentic production of the movie.
The Crucible is tremendously moving and the visual representation of the happenings that occurred in Salem makes the story to be alive. This leaves a more lasting effect to the audience than reading the play version of the thrilling events. The movie has a running time of one hundred and twenty-four minutes and it is rated PG-13 due to the extreme depiction of the Salem Witch Trials.
The persuasive, pertinent depiction of human fear was due to the outstanding recreation of the play version of the story for the screen. Undeniably, anyone watching the movie will find the though-provoking production to be of top-quality.
The filmmakers endeavored to hold the action together by having a visual style that is perfect which creates the same atmosphere all through it. The crucible is regarded as one of the best films from 1996 and its classic reinterpretation is an assurance that it has a place in the history of movies.
Bloom, Harold. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2010. Print.
Shmoop University. The Crucible by Authur Miller. Sunnyvale, CA: Shmoop University, 2009. Print.
Zinn, Howard, and Arnove, Anthony. Voices of a people’s history of the United States. New York: Seven Stories Press, cop., 2004. Print.