Stirring adaptation of Arthur Miller’s portrayal of the Salem witch hunts. In a moment of weakness, John Proctor (Daniel Day-Lewis) has an affair with his servant Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder). His wife, Elizabeth (Joan Allen), sends Abigail away, but she still pines for John. Later, Abigail and several other girls meet in secret with a voodoo priestess in the forest in order to make the various village men fall in love with them. However, their frenzied activities attract the attention of Abigail’s uncle, the Reverend Parris (Bruce Davison). The next day, when two of the village girls fall into a catatonic state, Parris bows under the pressure of the community and begins a witch hunt. He calls in a local witch expert and Judge Danforth (Paul Scofield) to oversee the trials. Abigail and the other girls quickly turn under pressure and begin to accuse others in the town of witchcraft and dealings with the devil. When Abigail learns she cannot take John away from his wife, she accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft as well. Director Nicholas Hytner manages to translate Arthur Miller’s play very well to the screen. Although it was originally intended as an allegory for the Red Scare in the 1950s, the story holds its own, both as a tale of the witch hunt in Salem, and as a cautionary tale of any form of mass hysteria and guilt by accusation. Daniel Day-Lewis turns in another wonderful performance as John Proctor. Winona Ryder is good as well, but far outshone by Joan Allen’s sympathetic performance as Elizabeth. The Crucible works wonders as a tragic romance, a stirring drama, and as a cautionary tale.
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