Daniel Day-Lewis stars in Arthur Miller's film adaptation of his 1953 drama, The Crucible, which opened Nov. 27, in U.S. theatres.
USA Today gave the film four stars, its highest rating.
Though ostensibly the story of innocent people accused and burned at the stake as witches and warlocks in colonial Massachusetts, Miller's drama is an allegory of the anti-communist campaign of the early 1950s, which destroyed or stunted the careers of so many writers and artists who were Miller's friends.
Led by mainly by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose aid, Roy Cohen, is dealt with in Angels in America, the campaign required writers and other artists to confess their alleged communist background, and to expose others whom McCarthy believed were out to seize American culture and, eventually, the government. Those who were named, even if they were convicted of no crime, often found themselves on a blacklist, unable to get work. Among those blacklisted: Zero Mostel and Clifford Odets.
Miller's play, and the film, starts with a girl (Ryder) who seeks revenge when she loses her job in the home of a prominent local minister, John Procter (Day-Lewis). She accuses him of witchcraft, a capital offence in 17th century Salem. When she is challenged, she and her friends begin naming more and more Salem residents as agents of Satan. Once the word of these out-of-control teenage girls is taken as truth, no one's life is safe. The Crucible was directed by Nicholas Hytner, whose staging of another American classic, Carousel on Broadway in 1994 won him a Tony Award as Best Director of a Musical, and won the production a Tony as Best Revival of a Musical.
Also featured in the Crucible film are Winona Ryder, Bruce Davison, Joan Allen and Paul Scofield.
Surprisingly, the play was never before filmed in English. No less than Jean-Paul Sartre adapted a French version in 1956. Miller, whose last Broadway play was Broken Glass in 1994, wrote the screenplay himself.
-- By Robert Viagas