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A small group of teen girls in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts caught in an innocent conjuring of love potions to catch young men are forced to tell lies that Satan had invaded them and forced them to participate in the rites and are then forced to name those involved. Thrown into the mix are greedy preachers and other major landowners trying to steal others' land and one young woman infatuated with a married man and determined to get rid of his innocent wife. Arthur Miller wrote the events and the subsequent trials where those who demanded their innocence were executed, those who would not name names were incarcerated and tortured, and those who admitted their guilt were immediately freed as a parable of the Congressional Communist witch hunts led by Senator Joe McCarthy in 1950's America.Written by
John Sacksteder <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The film takes place from February to November 14, 1692. See more »
The word "pregnant" would not have been the choice of word in the 17th century for a woman with child. That would have been not an appropriate way to describe the condition. It is spoken twice. See more »
Sobering And Chaotic - In Keeping With The Subject Matter
Arthur Miller wrote the play on which this movie was based in 1953. 1953 in the United States was the height of the Red Scare, with McCarthy and Nixon among others seeking to hunt down and destroy Communists - often with little or conflicting evidence, and often to the ruin of those accused on such flimsy evidence. Miller couldn't write a play depicting the abuses of the Communist witch-hunt, so he did the next best thing - he wrote a play based on the incident in American history that might be the closest thing to the Communist witch-hunts: the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, in which rumours led to suspicions, and personal jealousies and ambitions led to accusations and people lied about their neighbours and friends in order to deflect attention away from themselves and innocent people were forced to confess to witchcraft because if they denied it (no matter their innocence) they'd hang and the courts became less interested in discovering the truth than in rooting out the evil. It's actually quite a good parallel.
This 1996 movie is based on Miller's play, and the screenplay for it was written by Miller himself. It's a sometimes chaotic movie - quite in keeping with the subject matter (either the official subject matter of the 1690's or the unofficial subject matter of the 1950's) - but in its chaos one picks up the basic point of how easily otherwise good people with normally good intentions can get caught up in evil ways. The devil may well have been on the prowl in Salem in 1692 - not through the accused but rather through their accusers and the system that encouraged and empowered the accusers.
Generally speaking the performances here were pretty solid. Both Daniel Day-Lewis (as John Proctor) and Winona Ryder (as Abigail Williams) carried themselves well and the supporting cast was strong. The portrayal of life in a 17th century Puritan community is a little bit difficult to relate to, and even the Puritan manner of referring to virtually all married women as "Goody" (short for "Goodwife") grates for a while and sometimes creates confusion for the viewer in trying to keep the characters straight, because it's so unusual to modern ears - although, on the other hand, it does provide an air of authenticity to the movie.
One can only be grateful that the Witch Hunt ended fairly quickly (although a good number of people were executed.) The Communist witch hunt lasted unfortunately longer with a greater number of people being scarred for life by the experience (and, indeed, some losing their lives as a result of it.) One would like to think that we've progressed over the years, although the demonization of Moslems since 9/11 - although is hasn't perhaps reached the depths of 1692 or the 1950's - suggests that the possibilities for such excesses are still present with us. (7/10)
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