Up until awhile ago, I had never even known the movie The Crucible even existed. I mainly wanted to watch it because I heard Daniel-Day Lewis was in it. Another recognizable face is Winona Ryder, and she was in The Crucible a few years before her strange behavior led her to have a years-long hiatus in the early to mid 2000’s. I also noticed the late Peter Vaughan who most people would recognize now as Maester Aemon Targaryen in HBO’s Game of Thrones TV series. The Crucible is based on a play from 1953 by Arthur Miller of the same name. The play was written to protest McCarthyism as conservatives used the government held “witch hunts” for communists even though the United States should of protected them since there was suppose to be freedom of speech. Many decades after the fall of communism, any political points in The Crucible are rather moot now. How well does the story hold up?
Set in the year 1692, the film is set in the town of Salem in the future state of Massachusetts. The religious Puritans rule here, but not everyone is so strict to obey the literal version of the Bible. A slave named Tituba leads a strange dance and chants that “let” the girls wish for their hearts deepest desires. Pretty much all the girls ask for the man they want to marry. By chance, a preacher named Samuel Parris comes across them in the woods, and the girls scatter in an attempt to flee. He does find his niece Abigail Williams and his daughter Betty Parris among them. Things don’t look very bright for the two girls, until the much younger Betty apparently enters a stage of sleep that appears to be like a coma.
The whole town starts to believe it’s the work of Satan as girls like Betty don’t wake from their “comas”. They believe The Devil can control the corrupt the minds of anyone. However anyone accused of being close to The Devil or witchcraft can easily end up with a noose around their necks. John Proctor’s wife Elizabeth Proctor is accused of such things by Abigail Williams as she wants John romantically and desperately wants Elizabeth dead to do so. While John and Abigail have had their secret meetings, John still loves and cares for his wife and he will not stop in trying to defend her. However this may prove to be a foolish move as the Puritans are not liberal and forgiving people.
Overall I thought The Crucible was good but not great. Daniel Day-Lewis doesn’t shine much until later on, which might explain why he had no Oscar nominations or wins here. Joan Allen was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Elizabeth Proctor but eventually lost to Juliette Binoche in The English Patient. I’d say the film’s biggest curse is its run-time, it’s not that bad at about two hours, but the story does start to get dull and boring at times. Even though there are historical inaccuracies, I’d say it’s a fair enough look at the Salem Witch Trials. It gives modern day people the chance to understand the lunacy of the Puritans and their witch trials.