Monday, June 27, 2005

Movie Review: The Crucible

It is the 17th Century and a group of teenage girls meet in the woods at midnight for a secret ceremony to conjure up love where they dance naked around a cauldren. However, one of the girls wishes the death of a former lover. The scene is witnessed by the town minister who reports them and, as a result, the girls are accused of witchcraft. So begins a series of events characterised by hysteria, injustice, and persecution. The Crucible is another version of Arthur Miller's play, based on actual events that occurred in 1692, which first played on Broadway in 1953. America was in the middle of a panic about the 'Red Menace' -- paranoia about the rise of Communism. At the time, it was easy to see how The Crucible was a metaphor of McArthyism. Arthur Miller, himself, is the author of the screenplay for the movie. Victor Navasky (1996), of The New York Times, asked Arthur Miller what relevance the story had for our time. He replied:
I have had immense confidence in the applicability of the play to almost any time, the reason being it's dealing with a paranoid situation. But that situation doesn't depend on any particular political or sociological development. I wrote it blind to the world. The enemy is within, and within stays within, and we can't get out of within. It's always on the edge of our minds that behind what we see is a nefarious plot.
I'm sure it won't be hard for Christians to identify real-world examples of social paranoia -- many fundamentalist Christians revel in it. How many times do we condemn others because of our own fears rather than the presence of any real evil? Thousands have been falsely accused throughout history as a result of the dogmatic blindness of the prevailing culture. Miller has written somewhere that
No man lives who has not got a panic button, and when it is pressed by the clean white hand of moral duty, a certain murderous train is set in motion. (Navasky 1996)
One can't help but wonder whether, perhaps, the Iraq War might have been an example of this phenomenon. At the level of cinema, The Crucible has failings. It doesn't quite reach the dramatic intensity implied by the summary on the cover of the DVD. Nonetheless, it makes us reflect on the ease with which we group together against those who may be different to us or perceived to be a threat. My Rating (*** out of 5) Related Links

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