The Crucible @the cinema

Last summer I saw “The Crucible” on stage in London, yesterday evening I invited my mother to come with me to see it in the cinema. She didn’t know the play, when I talked about Arthur Miller writing it, she said “Oh, the man who was married to Marilyn Monroe?” 🙂 3679I was sure the topic of the play would interest her and when she asked me what it was about exactly I found I could hardly describe it in a sentence or two! I mean, sure: witch hunts, Salem, 17th century, but what more to tell her without giving too much away? So, she only got very rudimentary information from me and I think she wasn’t quite sure what to expect. She walked into the cinema mildly curious and totally ‘innocent’, she walked out of the cinema as a Richard Armitage as John Proctor fan! So, the lights went out and sadly some people thought that would be a good time to enter the cinema – it was very annoying to have people walk in front of the screen when you don’t want to miss a second. I remember loving the opening of the play with Tituba walking in circles and chanting. It had immediately transported me to another world last summer in the theater and I didn’t want to miss that. I think my biggest disappointment was that the chanting and walking was hardly shown in this film! They used a more cinematic way to transport you to another/darker world with overlaying and slow motion images and yes, that did work (once the people who arrived late finally settled down) and looked good, but I would still have liked to have seen more clear images of Tituba’s walk with her dragging steps and the chanting. Apart from the disappointment in the opening, the film very much lived up to what I hoped it would be! I think I sat through the whole thing with my eyes open wide, trying to take it all in and trying to never miss a heartbeat. This film is seen through the eyes of the filmmakers, so you can’t always choose what you look at – the choices have already been made.  Admittedly there were a handful of moments when I wished for a more overall view than a close up but the close ups were also what made this very special: I was able to see so many nuances I had missed in the theater. Characters I had not noticed quite as much in the first viewing, like Reverend Parris (especially in the second half of the play) and even the small role of Marshal were more noticeable for me. Last summer the most memorable performances were to me John and Elizabeth Proctor, Abigail Williams, Reverend Hale and Deputy Governor Danforth. After last night I have to add the character of Mary Warren to that, Natalie Gavin gave even more of stand out performance than I had remembered. Wow. So, the audience I watched this with – we were in quite a large screening room and I think about 3/4 of it was filled with people, many of them foreigners (I heard a lot of English-speakers around me). During the first half (especially the first act) there was a regular crackling of wrappers. People chuckled in places and gasped but as the play went on, it got quieter and quieter. I think people just forgot to eat or drink! Or maybe it was just me, shutting myself off from anything else, concentrating on what I was seeing on screen. The 10 minute intermission before the last two acts (I took a picture of the screen, see below) brought an almost rude awakening. I know it took my mother and me a moment to adjust to the ‘real world’. 20150204_220604 I loved that the intermission was short, you were drawn back into the second half almost instantly. Especially during the last act I don’t recall hearing anything, it was as if everyone was collectively holding their breath or at least that’s what it felt like to me in hindsight. When the screening ended it was deadly quiet, no one said a word. I couldn’t say anything either and when I looked to my mother she was lost for words as well. In muted tones we all made our ways to the exit and only when we were outside the room did my mother start going into superlatives. She thought the story was very compelling, she had adored the acting, she loved the simple look of the play, she loved the girls and especially Abigail and she loved the costumes. What she went on about most, however, was Richard Armitage. She said he was absolutely amazing, his acting was astounding, he had kept her guessing to the end and by the end she had a lump in her throat. She thanked me several times for taking her to see this and now wants me to send her some images from the play as she feels the urge to paint them! I had worried about whether, as someone who barely knows Armitage, she would like this play and this version of it and I was so happy to find out that she did. Apart from all the performances being so very good, there were some stand out moments for me…

  • Abigail and Proctor alone in act 1
  • Elizabeth and Proctor alone at the start of act 2
  • Abigail and Mary at the trial. The defiance and hatred in Abigail’s eyes and her determined chin and Mary trying to faint, not being able to, and turning against Proctor after all.
  • Elizabeth’s interrogation at the trial and John’s reaction at the end
  • Thunderous Danforth at the trial and a Danforth in act 4 where an edge of self-doubt seems to creep in but he suppresses that
  • Reverend Hale who has become a quivering mess
  • Elizabeth talking to John in act 4 trying to convince him he really is a good man and whatever choice he makes he’ll remain a good man and John’s struggle with that
  • John Proctor giving Danforth a hard time about signing the confession
  • John’s and Elizabeth’s kiss at the end
  • Oh, and at the very end when the audience applauds and the whole cast comes on stage, they zoom in on Richard, and you can still see the emotion and the tears in his eyes… I had not seen that from my seat in the theater last July…

OK, I realize that these points almost make up the whole play. 😉 The film experience is somewhat different than the actual stage experience and the one does not take away from the other. The stage pulls you in and you can choose which bits and pieces to concentrate on when watching. The film pulls you in and you get close ups of characters that you could not see while in the theater. Robert Delamere and Digital Theater have done well! Both experiences are immersive, each in their own way, and both have an almost overwhelming effect. I really want to see it all again and I wonder whether seeing it on a small screen will have a similar impact…

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11 thoughts on “The Crucible @the cinema

  1. Thank you for this very insightful review! I am sure the screening will offer different prospects than the theatre performance did and for a good reason. A theatre broadcast will never substitute the live experience but it’s a good way to either reminiscence or get a deep impression of a play. I am looking forward to see The Crucible on screen next week! I haven’t yet put The Crucible behind although I saw it twice last summer. It’s a gift to see it again!

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  2. Interesting, this squares with some things that Herba said about occasionally wanting more of an overview shot rather than a panorama.

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    • Yes, I read Herba’s description this past weekend or so and recognized most of what she said as well! I am curious to one day read what you think once you get the chance to see it…

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  3. Thankyou for a wonderful appraisal of the film, and what was especially interesting for me was the reaction of your mother, a total ‘innocent’ to the whole spectrum of this play, the drama and excitement, and the absolutely mind-blowing acting of the whole cast and especially the ones you picked out. The way it totally stuns the audience, so much so, that you are left almost speechless and not a little emotional. And of course, how gorgeous it is when your mum falls in love with the very guy we have all appreciated and loved! Something to share in common. I loved the film as much, almost, as the play, because I saw a lot more,( although in the theatre, having Richard live and lithe, strip to kneel down and wash himself -practically at my feet must be the highlight of my year!!!)

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    • Wow, you were in the front at the theater! Nice! When I spoke to my mother this afternoon she was still on about how wonderful it had been and how she had dreamed of the play! She dreamed she was a witch with long wild hair running through the woods. 🙂

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  4. Hi Esther,

    A bit late, but here’s my experience with The Crucible on screen. I loved it! I must admit I had some doubts before booking tickets, but I’m so glad I did.
    I had doubts because I thought that seeing the play in two dimensions would somehow influence the image in my mind of the live performance. A performance I will never forget and I can still ‘see’ whenever I want to. But the film added details that I missed in the theatre. And it made my recollection even more beautiful.
    An extra treat was that I got to see it in Tuschinski, a lovely art deco cinema in Amsterdam, I’d never been to before.

    I’m glad you and your mother enjoyed it too.

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  5. […] #2: Two months ago I took my mother to see The Crucible in the cinema and she loved it, she wanted to dedicate a painting to […]

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