Volume 90, Issue 65

Tuesday, January 21, 1997



Trial transition smooth

Daniel Day-Lewis

The Crucible
Starring Winona Ryder and Daniel Day-Lewis
Directed by Nicholas Hytner
At Galleria, 7:15 and 9:50 p.m.

The transition from stage to screen can often be a tenuous one. But The Crucible,, Nicholas Hytner's film adaptation of Arthur Miller's famous play, carries over well to the cinema. It may help that Miller himself wrote the screenplay. Though a predictable story, it captivates both the theatre and cinematic audience with aplomb.

The deft directing of Hytner saves any losses that could be sustained when translating a play into film. Hytner has had his experience with both theatre and film, directing both the Broadway play Miss Saigon and the Oscar-nominated The Madness of King George.

Set during the Salem witch trials of the early 1690s, The Crucible is a tale of unrequited love involving a jealous teenage servant-girl and a reserved farmer. Daniel Day-Lewis plays the role of John Procter, the strong-willed patriarch of a farming family, whose past includes an affair with the family's servant, Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder, Little Women).

Having worked together before in Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence, Day-Lewis and Ryder act their parts brilliantly, creating a sensuous, but obstructed, relationship between their two characters.

As the film opens, Abigail and her friends are seen dancing around a fire in the woods in the middle of the night, surrounded by such witchcraft-like elements as dead chickens and dead frogs. Upon being caught by elders in this so-called Satanic activity, the community of Salem set out to cleanse its town of all evil, beginning with Abigail and her friends.

This cleansing sets into motion a chain of events that culminates with a string of hangings for completely baffling reasons. When the witch hunt was called off in 1692, 19 people had been killed.

Arthur Miller wrote this play in 1952 as an act of defiance against the United States government and citizens, paralleling the Salem witch trials with the hysteria surrounding McCarthy-era communism. The Crucible goes further than simply defying the political circumstances in which it was written; it challenges any and all paranoid and hysterical political reactions.

And with Hytner's well-directed and well-acted new film version to complement Miller's superb play, these anti-hysteria sentiments are brought to a new generation.

–John Tracey

To Contact The Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca