Wednesday, November 3, 2010

1966: A Man for All Seasons

King Henry VIII wants to divorce his first wife and marry his mistress.  When the Roman Catholic Church won't grant him a divorce, the king declares himself in charge of religion in England so he can grant himself one.  But he demands the approval and support of Sir Thomas More, a very religious and almost shockingly non-corrupt man.  To speak out against the king would be treason, but Sir Thomas cannot make himself lie, so he says nothing.  His silence angers the king, and others in power, more than anything he could have said.

I must admit that I found this movie a bit hard to get into at first.  The beginning was mostly different groups of people having the same conversation: the king wants to get divorced, but the Church won't let him.  Then I thought, oh great, it's a film about somebody saying nothing, how fascinating can that be?  After a while, I answered myself: surprisingly, very fascinating.

I'm not sure how historically accurate this is, but at least in the film, Sir Thomas More is portrayed as one of those courageous, heroic men who are never appreciated until after they're dead.  At first everyone seems to like him, but once he takes a stand against the king - even though he insists that with his silence he is taking no stand - he finds himself alone.  The only people who will speak to him urge him to take an oath supporting the king's divorce and remarriage.  But his refusals make the audience feel for him passionately, and cheer him on even though they know it is hopeless.  Paul Scofield's performance is magnificent, and greatly contributes to the effectiveness of this film.  He embodies Sir Thomas More.  His portrayal of the innocent, virtuous, loyal man who refuses to become corrupted is thoroughly moving and convincing, and it won him a much-deserved Best Actor Oscar.  The other performances in this film are also very convincing, but most of the other characters are unlikeable, while Sir Thomas is one of the most likeable characters in any film I've seen.

This film is not full of action or war scenes, but the more subtle war of wills keeps it interesting and engaging, at least after the first few minutes.  And if nothing else, it's worth watching because of Paul Scofield.

Next: In the Heat of the Night

No comments:

Post a Comment