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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