For a while it seemed as if no movie from 1966 would truly be inside the Academy’s comfort zone – until A Man for all Seasons opened, the story of Sir Thomas Moore who refuses to endorse the marriage of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn out of his religious feelings until he is beheaded in the end for staying by his principles. Based on the stage production of the same name, A Man for all Seasons is expectedly a very wordy movie and offers little true action – but thankfully the dialogue and the plot are presented very smartly and the talented cast helps perfectly to bring the story to live.
Basically, A Man for all Seasons is an actor’s dream since it offers a lot of strong parts but the screenplay is just as responsible for the overall success of the production as the cast. Even though it provides nothing but constant conversations around the same topic, it still finds constantly new angles and new observations. Fred Zinnemann may have won an Oscar for his Direction but this may actually be the weakest point of the whole story since he gives the movie a very ‘staged’ feeling and I also can’t quite forgive him for cutting away from Paul Scofield during the only moment in the whole movie in which he finally raises his voice to his opponents. This feeling of a staged play combined with the sometimes limited plot are also the main reason why A Man for all Seasons didn’t get a higher position this ranking even it has definitely reached an impress position, nonetheless.
Overall, A Man for all Seasons has the ability to appear timeless and since it lets various characters speak on the manner of principles, it catches different views on the topic without ever appearing like a lecture. It never forces the viewer to ask himself or herself ‘How would I react in a situation like this?` but instead constantly presents the life and the fate of Sir Thomas Moore as his own choice, as his free will which needn’t to be a rolemodel for everyone else. This way A Man for all Seasons luckily never feels forced in its storytelling but, surprisingly, rather entertaining and provoking in its own way.