How sad: By the time director Nicholas ("The Madness of King George")Hytner discovers a real story, he's relegated to featuring two of his main characters, John Proctor (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his wife, Elizabeth (Joan Allen), atop a blustery cliff so that Daniel Day-Lewis' hair can blow luxuriously in the wind and every woman in the theater can sigh like a pig in slop. Given the tenor of the scene, one gets the feeling that Hytner was also looking to include a shot of Daniel Day-Lewis running butt-naked through the fallowed fields, but realized the Puritan setting would make such a moment seem less than authentic.
The Proctors' lives have been ruined by one Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder), who boffed John in the barn one day and as a result has it out for Elizabeth. Abigail, upset that John won't give up Liz for her, creates stories about witches and accuses everyone in sight of being in collusion with the devil.
History makes it all too easy to look upon Abigail with evil eyes. Sure, she gets a little carried away when her man won't dump the Missus, but let's step back and look at the reason for her misplaced aggression. Today, men sleeping around behind their wives' backs is about as common as the setting sun, but back in 1692, the sin of adultery involved actual moral repercussions. Sadly, Hytner and famed playwright Arthur Miller not only blame the girl for the man's misdeeds but turn the adulterer into a hero as well.
In the end, the filmmakers would have us believe that John Proctor sacrifices himself for some kind of moral ideal, namely, the purity of his good name and conscience. In reality, he's just some dude who couldn't keep his "little fireman" in his pants and is trying to weasel his way to forgiveness.
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