The Crucible (1996)

Watching movies based on plays that you already read, really just takes out all of the fun.

After being spurned by her married lover (Daniel Day-Lewis), young Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder) stirs up a frenzy of hysteria and fear with accusations of witchcraft. Various other townspeople affected are played by Paul Scofield, Joan Allen, and Bruce Davison.

The film is based on and adapted from the 1953 play from Arthur Miller, which I already had the pleasure of reading. To be truly honest I’m glad I saw this movie because without this film, the play would have left a really bad taste in my mouth.

The really daring political statement that the play made was about the rebellion against Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “witch hunts” in the U.S, and how Arthur Miller put those ideas and statements towards these “witch hunts” in Salem. I understood the point and the message, but this film never really did anything new to teach me something different about this time and age.

Most of the direction in the middle of the film really does start drag on. The scenes that featured the little girls acting as they were being attacked by demons were too silly and unintentionally funny. I also feel that this film really doesn’t put forth an effort to draw us in. I knew who these characters were from the reading, but some just seeing the movie will not, so therefore they would be a little confused on who these people really are.

I did enjoy how this film really captured the look and feel of the Salem Witch Trials at the time. All the paranoia that was going on in this little community was captured very well. The film really did look like Salem at the time, because the set pieces are really all in all beautiful and some images are just really captivating.

The screenplay is in most cases a lot like the original play as the majority of the lines were taken directly from the play. Some new lines and scenes were put in and made this film a lot more effective. All the main occurrences in the play are in this film. However, some are altered, and some new ones were added for the dramatic effect. Overall these changes we’re really well planned out for the film and made it more effective for me.

The reason this film really does work is because of its A-list cast. Daniel-Day Lewis, really does a good job here but this is definitely not one of his best roles. It was almost forgettable until the very end. Winona Ryder, does a good job at showing how evil and maniacal she can really be. But the two who really stand out for me are from Paul Scofield and Joan Allen. Paul Scofield plays Judge Danforth, and really does match the act and power this character had over everyone opposite him in the original play. Scofield who should’ve been nominated for Best Supporting Actor, gives off a lot of energy without giving too much of it to show a weakness. Joan Allen plays Elizabeth Proctor, and is the most effective female in the entire cast, and shows she really can be as powerful as anyone else, even though the spotlight is not on her throughout. The only problem I had with some of these performances was that I could not believe them, because I felt that some of the language they used was not very useful for these dramatic scenes, and in the end just made them sound somewhat cheesy.

Consensus:  The Crucible is an effective and powerful adaptation of Arthur Miller’s play. However, at times doesn’t feel genuine and doesn’t present a very good insightful message, much unlike the play.


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