My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Number 56: A Man for all Seasons (Best Picture Ranking)

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.

Paul Scofield reprised his Tony-award-winning role and won himself an Oscar, too, for portraying the main character who is more concerned about his immortal soul than his mortal life. His performance is a wonderful example of how an actor can use dialogue to the greatest results and how powerful subtlety, quietness and dignity can burn up the screen. Mostly sitting in a chair and talking in a soft, controlled way that reflects the construction of the dialogue, Paul Scofield achieves the greatest possible results in a role that could have become too saint-like – everything in A Man for all Seasons wants to worship its main character but Paul Scofield thankfully never overdid this aspect in this performance (even though he is sometimes close to it) and simply focused on the single struggle of a single man. But even though A Man for all Seasons is basically a One-Man-Show, it still allows a strong supporting cast to impress, too. Robert Shaw is a wonderful scene-stealer as King Henry VIII, Wendy Hiller gives a dignified portrayal of a woman who doesn’t understand the principles of her husband, Susannah York lights up the screen as Moore’s daughter, John Hurt is immensely unlikable as Richard Rich and Orson Welles is an overpowering presence in his single scene. And even Vanessa Redgrave manages to shine in her wordless cameo.

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.


Anonymous said...

I like this movie movie very much.Scofield was wonderful and deservedly won an Oscar.

Louis Morgan said...

Although I think the story is a strong one, and the acting is strong as well, the whole staged feeling of the film really brought the film down on awhile making it unfortunately boring.

Tom said...

At this point I would have thought for sure Gigi and Oliver would appear. But you must really like those!

J.C. Marrero said...

Too hagiographic--but that is the play's fault mostly. Recently, as shown in the novel "Wolf Hall", Sir Thomas has been shown to have sent quite a few heretics to their death when he was in power. He was not quite the Gandhi/St. Francis portrayed in the film. So, I would rate the movie lower for lack of nuance.

Anonymous said...

A brilliant film with a perfect screenplay and performances, and I agree about the staged feeling which may be the only thing it has against it.

Anthony said...

A nice, very well-made film, but I think "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" was more deserving...but it also my favorite play and the movie adaptation nearly equalled it so of course I am biased but "A Man For All Seasons" is a forgotten gem that should be seen as well.