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Plot: The story of Thomas More, who stood up to King Henry VIII when the King rejected the Roman Catholic Church to obtain a divorce and remarriage. Runtime: 120 mins Release Date: 12 Dec 1966
The Ultimate Lead Performance (by tomreynolds2004)
Paul Scofield's rendition of Sir Thomas More as written by Robert Bolt and directed by Fred Zinneman is the greatest lead dramatic performance EVER in cinematic history. He is that magnificent. He IS Sir Thomas More. We feel his hope, weariness, fire, virtue, protectiveness, morality, and bemusement as richly as he conveys each one frequently, one right after another. He was made for Bolt's dialogue, and Bolt's dialogue is drilled forever into our conscious by Scofield's flawless performance.Everything else is also here. Leo McKern is brilliant as politically motivated <more>
prosecutor, Lord Cromwell. A bit subtler, but no less brilliant is Nigel Davenport as a man of some conscience, but not quite enough. John Hurt is unforgettable as ambitious young Rich led into temptation by Lord Cromwell. The incomparable Dame Wendy Hiller -- who passed just last year -- adds several more dimensions than her rather sparsely written role as Scofield's wife should have allowed for. Every minute she is on the screen is magnificent. Susannah York walks a tightrope between being scholarly reason and her passion for what is right. Robert Shaw as Henry VIII and Orson Wells as Cardinal Woolsey are larger than life and completely compelling during their all-too-brief virtuoso solos. The cinematography is lush. The soundtrack is historically accurate and perfectly positioned. Key sounds punctuate three pregnant pauses with explosive impact. The movie is technically as perfect as an historical epic can be. The film is simply exquisite.All that being said, as I reflect momentarily in my head on closing this, it is Scofield's incomparable and breathtaking performance which still leaves me in complete awe.
One of the most intelligent and moving films ever (by perfectbond)
A Man For All Seasons is an erudite examination of the old Biblical maxim: a man cannot serve two masters. Sir Thomas More poignantly portrayed by Paul Scofield struggles to be true to both his faith and his monarch the lusty and hearty King Henry VIII superbly played by Robert Shaw . I think it is difficult for citizens in our present secular society to truly understand just how central a role religion played in a man's life during the period of the film; it was an age of faith when Christianity exerted the most powerful of influences on one's thinking. On a side note, the <more>
American Republic wisely sought a nation that "divided church and state." However, the fine distinction remains that it would be a state informed by faith but not run by the church. The aforementioned exemplary performances by the leads are backed by excellent supporting turns, especially from Orson Welles as the less than saintly Cardinal Wolsey and the eternally ebullient Susannah York as Sir Thomas's daughter Margaret. This is a true masterpiece that richly deserves all the accolades and plaudits it has received.
powerful and misunderstood study of identity (by Brixia)
This is one of my favorite films. It is of perfect length and pacing, and the script is one of the best ever written. The acting, direction, and design of this movie are uniformly excellent. The segue into Henry VIII's entrance is alone reason for seeing the movie. The production design is top-notch, both beautiful and--unlike many "costume dramas"--not so overwhelming as to lose the actors among outrageous sets and costumes. For an adaptation of a stage play, a remarkable proportion of the action taking place outdoors, with More's house at Chelsea being particularly lovely. <more>
It's very easy to see this film superficially as a moral fable, and many people scoff at it as being a stagy morality play. But it's both more subtle and more vibrant that that. The subtlety of Robert Bolt's script lies in its exploration of identity. We're not meant to identify or admire More's religious ideas, which the movie actually tiptoes around. Instead it's what Bolt called More's "adamantine sense of his own self" that the movie really highlights.
"This silence of his is bellowing...." (by alynsrumbold)
One of the greatest cinematic studies of the nature of personal integrity, I sometimes think that this film is in danger of being forgotten -- and it shouldn't be. One wonders at the degree of corruption in More's time that he should have been so highly regarded for his honesty -- and how he might have been regarded today.What Robert Bolt and Fred Zinnemann had wrought is absolutely brought to glorious life by the incomparable characterization of Sir Thomas More by the chronically underrated Paul Scofield. Bringing superb support to the role are Nigel Davenport as More's close <more>
friend Norfolk, who is caught between the rock of his respect and concern for More and the hard place of his duty to and fear of Henry VIII; Leo McKern as the jovially sinister Thomas Cromwell, whose verbal jousts with More are virtual poetry from Bolt's pen; John Hurt as More's fair-weather friend Richard Rich; Dame Wendy Hiller as More's devoted but frustrated and misunderstanding wife; and the elegant Susannah York as his equally devoted and strong-minded daughter. Two stand-out performances in relatively small but vital roles: Orson Welles, magnetic as the shrewdly pragmatic Cardinal Wolsey; and Robert Shaw, whose energetic portrayal of a young Henry VIII before his corpulent days! dominates the screen the two times he's on it.As with "The Lion in Winter," the remarkable scriptwriting is the driving force behind the story, but Scofield's dignified, restrained, but at the same time quietly forceful delivery are what give the writing its power. The great quotes of the film "Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the entire world...but for Wales?" "When you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?" etc. are conveyed with either enormous gravity or poignancy by nothing more than the tone of Scofield's voice.I think that the dilemma at the heart of the tale and how men of power came to grips with it is artfully summed up in the dying words of Wolsey and, of course, More. Wolsey regrets he did not serve God as well as he served his king. More, on the other hand, dies as "His majesty's good servant...but God's first." Whether criticized or praised as a morality play, it's wonderful to at least HAVE an uncompromising morality play to watch from time to time -- especially one so well crafted.
Definitely worth watching every single season (by bsinc)
If on occasions I babbled about some actor's performance being the best I've ever seen it was just because I hadn't seen "A Man For All Seasons". Well, up until today. And I definitely won't be that quickly amazed and impressed by a performance again. May I just say that Paul Scofield embodies great acting to it's very core. Comprehending his masterful and skillful acting is evident even to the greatest fool or layman and I not being a big expert myself could not believe how a man can attain such knowledge of perfection. His every word is spoken with the <more>
greatest skill, intonation and accent as well as his facial expressions and movements. His performance is so strong it's scary when I think about it. As if he knew and he most definitely did! EXACTLY how to perform his acting task. This movie is an explosion of outstanding acting and actors, showing their skills to the fullest and to the amazed viewers. It may well be the greatest movie ever made, but the reason for this lies also in the jaw dropping and mind opening script that deserves more credit than it could have ever gotten. If you thought "On The Waterfront", "Bridge On The River Kwai", "Glennary Glen Ross" or even "The Usual Suspects" or "Pulp Fiction" had some great dialogs then this inspiring and simply amazing script will definitely change your mind. There are so many memorable lines, monologues and great battling dialogs I can't even give an approximate number. Every moment is meaningful and the movie is full of smart and important thoughts. I won't go into the story, because as a previous commenter said, there are just too many points of view and meanings to it, but I will say this; Sir Thomas More was too moral and too strong to give in to the Church, and because of his reasons he was respected. But because he was, for some, this stubborn, he paid the price which in the real world when you play with the big boys, is a given. A movie every future actor, actress, director and screen writer should and must see and a movie that makes most of the later Oscar winners for best picture look like a joke. And a final though, Leonard Maltin was absolutely right; if Paul Scofield acted only in this movie he'd still be remembered as a marvel worth every praise and respect. 9/10
Hampton Court? No, I always walk this way. (by F Gwynplaine MacIntyre)
Sir Thomas More was reputedly a man of deep integrity, but I suspect that he was just one more religious fanatic. He had no qualms about ladling out sentences of slow painful death by torture to 'heretics' whose only crime was that they were as deeply committed to their own religion as he was to his. More's novel 'Utopia' speaks approvingly of slavery, although it's uncertain if More himself believed this. Since the New Testament condones slavery, I think that More did too.'A Man for All Seasons' is clearly a Very Important Movie. I prefer Robert Bolt's <more>
stage version, which included the brilliant device omitted here of the Common Man. Film director Fred Zinnemann, here doubling as producer, gets excellent performances from his entire cast; I especially savoured a brief dramatic turn from Yootha Joyce, usually seen in comic roles. At one point, Robert Shaw as Henry VIII seems to fumble, reciting some Latin in a manner that makes clear he's memorised it phonetically rather than learnt it honestly. But then I realised that this deficiency was part of Shaw's characterisation of Henry, and intentional.Less perfect is Zinnemann's handling of the camera. Despite splendid location shooting at Hampton Court Palace and other authentic sites, Zinnemann repeatedly opts for static close- ups of mundane objects. During More's trial, Zinnemann twice pans across the impressively large gallery of spectators. But he does this both times with a swish pan rather than a steady pan, so he seems to be emphasising the spectators at both ends of the chamber and ignoring those in the middle; there's simply no reason for that approach. A dissolve montage to show the passing of the seasons at the Tower of London was more clichéd than necessary. Talking of seasons: the title 'A Man for All Seasons' is never explained here, as it was in Bolt's stage version.There are the usual anachronisms, including the actors' modern dentition and Leo McKern's prosthetic eye. One error could easily have been avoided: Vanessa Redgrave briefly portrays Anne Boleyn with ungloved hands, even though Boleyn wore gloves in public and long French sleeves to conceal her malformed vestigial finger. Put some gloves on, Vanessa!Bolt's dialogue is taut and provocative, though just occasionally too contrived. Why was More's real-life final witticism spoken as he approached the chopping block omitted here? Zinnemann convincingly recreates a society in which the king held absolute power. I was impressed when the boatmen refused More's custom immediately he incurred Henry's disfavour, although it made no sense for the boatmen to quench their torches.I disliked several of the men's costumes -- immense squared-off tabards with enormous shoulders, surmounting so many pipestem legs in hose underneath -- yet I suppose they're authentic. But did Tudor courtiers really show fealty to Henry by wearing huge brocade H's on their clothes?At the centre of this drama, Paul Scofield's performance is brilliant. He makes it difficult to imagine any other actor in the role. My rating for this epic: 9 out of 10. I might have given it a full 10 if not for Zinnemann's camera decisions. I'm still waiting for a screen biography of Thomas Hitton, John Frith or any of the other martyrs whom Thomas More gleefully sentenced to death for adherence to *their* beliefs.
Fred Zinnemann's one of our great forgotten directors, amazing considering that he was nominated for eight directing Oscars in four decades, winning two. Today's critics and auteurs don't champion him; you won't read much about him in "Entertainment Weekly." For Zinnemann, the script was the thing, what he worked from, and his greatest genius may have been in choosing the right scripts and knowing how to do them justice."From Here To Eternity" may well be Zinnemann at his highest tide, though IMDb voters seem to prefer "High Noon." Then <more>
there's "A Man For All Seasons," the film of the year in 1966, though its hard to imagine a film that represents the ethos of the 1960s less. "A Man For All Seasons" presents us with an unfashionable character who refuses to surrender his conscience to the dictates of king and countrymen, resolute instead in his devotion to God and Roman Catholic Church."When statesmen lead their country without their conscience to guide them, it is short road to chaos," Thomas More tells his nominal boss, Cardinal Wolsey, when the latter unsuccessfully presses him to give his blind assent to King Henry VIII's request for a convenient divorce. Perhaps out of pique, Wolsey makes sure More inherits his office of Counselor of the Realm, where More's sterling convictions are really put to the test.More is a marvel of subtleties, tensile steel covered in a velvet glove, a mild-mannered lion trying at every turn to do well even though his political savvy knows how dangerous that can be. As a lawyer, More knows the angles, yet he is no sharpie. He respects the law too much for that. Rather, he sees in law the only hope for man's goodness in a fallen world. "I'd give the Devil benefit of the law, for my own safety's sake," he explains.Paul Scofield plays More in such a way as to make us not only admire him but identify with him, and come to value both his humanness and his spirituality. His tired eyes, the way he gently rebuffs would-be bribers around Hampton Court, his genuine professions of loyalty to Henry even as he disagrees with the matter of his divorce, all speak to one of those great gifts of movies, which is the ability to create a character so well-rounded and illuminating in his window on the human condition we find him more haunting company than the real people we meet in life. It's a gift the movies seldom actually deliver on, so when someone like Scofield makes it happen, it is a object of gratitude as much as admiration.The script, adapted by Robert Bolt from his stage play, is very literate and careful to explain the facts of More's dilemma. It moves too slowly and opaquely at times to qualify "A Man For All Seasons" as a true classic, that and a supporting cast full of one-note performances, though some are quite good a few, however, are notably flat. I especially liked Robert Shaw as a young and thin Henry VIII, full of vigor yet also a childish temperament and inconsistent mind. He demands More not oppose his marriage to Anne Boleyn, then decides he must have either More's outright assent or else his head. There's no bargaining with such a man. Perhaps More was better off standing on his principals as he did than climbing into bed with homicidal Henry. Just ask Anne.Zinnemann presents some interesting visual images in "A Man For All Seasons," letting the period detail inform the story without overwhelming it. Several times, such as during the opening credits, inside More's cell at the Tower of London, and during More's trial, the camera shoots through narrow openings surrounded by high stone walls, a reminder not only of More's own trapped situation but the human condition. Aspirations of divinity may be unfashionable, even dangerous to one's health, but they present mankind with its one hope for overcoming its base nature, the dead-end character of temporality. "A Man For All Seasons" is a rallying cry for just such an approach to life, and remains undeniably effective in its artful, artless way.
A splendid cast. An intriguing story line. What more could one ask for? Answer: Fidelity to the historical record. (by Deusvolt)
To see this film is to see some of the greatest actors of the 20th century on screen: Scofield, Welles, Shaw, Hiller, Hurt, Davenport, etc.While well made with authentic details as to costumes, customs and manner of living as in housing and dining in late medieval England, the film however, errs on the historical moral stand of Thomas More himself. Unfortunately, the film just follows the script of Robert Bolt's play which presents More as just an ordinary man trying to save his neck with arguments and actions that smack of legalese and casuistry. It has More acquiescing to the <more>
King's and Parliament's demand that he recognize the issues of Henry and Ann Boleyn as legitimate heirs to the throne. More could not have done such a thing and in fact did not for if he did, that would have meant that he recognized Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon and by extension, repudiated the authority of the Church through the Pope in passing judgment on the validity of marriages.About the manner of living in Tudor times: Note that they ate with their fingers. The interiors of the castles and castles looked like barns. They spread straw reeds on the floors to prevent slipping on the damp and probably slimy flagstone floors. The aromatic reeds probably also offset unpleasant odors as the English at the time were not very keen on baths. Henry himself, especially in his older sickly age, was reputed to have sent ladies a-fainting because of the rank scent he emanated. This reminds me of Peter O'Toole as Henry II in Becket who needed the incentive of the companionship of his friend, Richard Burton as Thomas a'Becket, before he would take a bath.
Classic with a phenomenal lead performance (by petra_ste)
Fred Zinnemann High Noon directs this fine adaptation of the play by Robert Bolt Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago , who also penned the script. The plot follows the conflict between Sir Thomas More and Henry VIII over the king's marriage to Anne Boleyn which led to the English Reformation.Paul Scofield elevates the movie with one of the great performances of the Sixties, playing More with dignity, intelligence, humour and vulnerability. To appreciate how great Scofield is, compare him to Charlton Heston as More in the 1988 version. While Heston's performance isn't bad just <more>
like the remake , it lacks the nuance and subtlety of Scofield's.Also featuring Robert Shaw as Henry VIII, Leo McKern as Cromwell, Nigel Davenport as the Duke of Norfolk, a young John Hurt in his first major role as a social climber and a memorable cameo by Orson Welles as bitter, bleary-eyed Cardinal Wolsey.8/10