A Man for All Seasons (1966) Review

11 04 2011

* I saw three films over the weekend, so as not to get backlogged, I am going to post two of my reviews today.  Also, I wanted to take a moment to address my review factors as I’m sure some of you might be wondering why I don’t have any one and two star reviews as of yet.  I try to avoid films that I think could or will be disasters.  With as many movies as I have seen and the many more that I want to see, I find that there is no reason to waste time on watching what I consider a bad film.  Of course, every so often, I do run into one and there will be a bad review for it.  However, for the most part, I try to avoid such films at all costs.

Copyright 1966 Columbia Pictures

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Anyway, let’s get on with the actual review for this film.  My girlfriend is going to kill me for what I rate this movie, as we had very differing opinions.  To be fair, however, I will say that this is definitely the type of movie that you have to be in the mood for to enjoy.  Not every day is a day for a strict drama set in the 1500s, just as not every day is right for a romantic comedy or intense thriller, etc.

A Man for All Seasons swept the 1966 Academy Awards.  In addition to its Best Picture win, it won awards for Best Director, Best Actor in a Leading Role for Paul Scofield, Best Cinematography (Color), Best Costume Design (Color) and Best Adapted Screenplay, among receiving nominations for Best Supporting Actor for Robert Shaw and Best Supporting Actress for Wendy Hiller.  The film was directed by Fred Zinnemann (High Noon, From Here to Eternity, Day of the Jackal, Sophie’s Choice) and was adapted from his stage play of the same name by Robert Bolt.

The story revolves around Sir Thomas More, played by Scofield, who stands up to King Henry VIII (Shaw) on moral grounds regarding the king’s decision to renounce the Royal Catholic Church.  Henry VIII was originally married to Catherine of Aragon; however, she was barren and unable to have children.  So, the King began an affair with Anne Boleyn.  Yet, at this time it was unlawful to get a divorce in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church.  Despite many efforts to lobby against the church, the king finally decides to renounce the church and start the Church of England, so as to be granted his divorce from Catherine of Aragon.  In doing so, he makes it parliamentary law to take an oath recognizing his decisions that he is head of the Church of England and that his marriage to Catherine was annulled.

More, a lawyer, is a man of devout judicial and religious beliefs.  In his heart he cannot accept that what the king has done to be right.  For this betrayal of state, he is locked away in prison and eventually beheaded.  This is a story of a man standing up for what he beliefs to be right, no matter the consequence.  The epic stature of the film with England during the 1500s as a backdrop, creates an interesting contrast to the deeply personal story of More.

Everything about this film works.  The story is excellent, the direction is perfect, the cinematography is beautiful and, first and foremost, the acting is exemplary.  Scofield, as More, is amazing.  Every scene he is in, he is able to command a presence; it is a very deserving win for Best Actor.  The supporting cast which includes Wendy Hiller, Orson Welles, Robert Shaw and a very young John Hurt, are also a joy to watch.

Like I said, this is a movie you have to be in the mood for.  If, however, you feel like an amazingly moving story of one man’s beliefs and convictions against the heads of state set against an epic, sprawling backdrop – then they don’t get much better than this.

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