A Man for All Seasons Reviews
Directed by Fred Zinneman (High Noon, From Here to Eternity, The Search) a wonderfully lavish production. A noble sentiment too - a man willing to stand by his principles no matter what the cost.
However, the film moves along at a snail's pace, has excess dialogue and ultimately feels quite padded. Also doesn't help if you know history (and/or, like me, have seen The Tudors) and know how everything will end up.
There are moments of relief among the verbosity. Any time More is in an argument on points of law, his sharpness of mind, knowledge of law and expert use of the English language shine through - his wordplay is something to behold.
Won the Best Picture Oscar in 1967.
(Requires another viewing)
One of the greatest movies ever made, an honest, knockout drama (arguably Zinnemann's best film) about Thomas More, who stood up to King Henry VIII when the king rejected the Roman Catholic Church to obtain a divorce and remarriage, while also (subtlety) keeping his relationship with God in check. Vivid, fiercely though-provoking, with superb, fascinating dialogue, characterizations; breathtakingly beautiful in every way, plus haunting finale. Well-deserved Oscar wins for Screenplay (Robert Bolt) and for Scofield's unforgettable performance in leading role. Picture, Director, Photography, and Costumes also won. A truly wonderful motion picture.
Not mentioned above, Paul Scofield, who I have never heard of prior to seeing this film, carries this film with a brilliant performance. He plays Thomas More, a man defiant to man's law if God's law says differently. This is the essence of his personality, and he is a character who is full of wisdom and a great sense of logic in order to defend himself against the accusations of the corrupt. While his wisdom and logic do not ultimately save him, these characteristics form one of the most inspirational characters I have ever seen on film. Scofield plays More as a man who calmly accepts his fate while standing by his words and beliefs, rather than pleading his allegiance to the corruption within England's government.
The supporting cast - especially John Hurt - do a good job of building up More even more (pun not intended) by portraying corrupt individuals who More has tried to help. More always has the best intentions; John Hurt's character is looking for employment at the beginning of the film, and More tries to convince him to become a teacher to avoid the corruption of government, and offers him a bribe he has received in order to get the man started. At first it seems possible that Hurt's character will remain loyal to More, but instead uses the fact that he was "bribed" by More to obtain a post within the government. It is heartbreaking to listen to Hurt's character lie about More late in the film in order to just keep climbing up the ladder, a situation More was trying to prevent entirely for the best intentions.
Most of the film consists of inspiring monologues through More, an aspect I love since I think monologues are difficult to pull off correctly and are extremely effective in developing character. Scofield does it with mastery. I think it makes sense that this work stems from a play because I see it more fitting to be performed on stage than I see it as a cinematic work. If the film was more cinematic I would give it a perfect rating, but to me the only really visually captivating scene in the film was the penultimate scene: the trial for More's life. As my uncle says, in a way, this film makes you "want to be a better person."