THE SCARLET LETTER
DIRECTOR: ROLAND JOFFE
USA 1996
CINEMATOGRAPHY: ALEX THOMPSON
MUSIC: JOHN BARRY
CAST: Demi Moore, Gary Oldman, Robert Duvall, Joan Plowright
SUPER FEATURES: Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel gets a Hollywood treatment.


For a literary audience, this is a disappointing film, as we find out that Nathaniel Hawthorne comes off as a combination of Danielle Steel and Ann Rice.

If one wants to take this film away from those academic experts, then this film improves, and becomes more enjoyable as a nice love story, and one that escapes the miserable ending, that Nathaniel Hawthorne originally wrote, during the time when it was important to create the statement that he did.

It's just a shame that the film, while extremely sumptuous, and very well done, has to stoop to a modern level of an attractive actress baring herself, just so it could bring in an audience. This is a great novel, and though in this century its ending is very preachy, it still holds up rather well, even in a movie that does not work the novel to its fullest outlook.

It does add another element that could be said to be a part of the novel. It starts things off by making Hester's need lean towards the side of frustration, and a physical need, a very accepted twentieth century theme, that would not have stood up well 200 years ago, or earlier at all.

But because of its modernization, this film adds many more themes and possibilities, that otherwise would not have happened. And this makes for a bold film, as it would have a very bold novel if it had been written, originally, that way. It may have been better, to place this story in the 1950's and 1960's where feminism was an issue and it was justified, and the physical need is an accepted fact.

Aside from that literary idealism to which academia adheres to this is a pretty good film, and its technical aspects are very good, and well defined. The lighting, though it tends to maintain a low level all the time to give the illusion that in those days all the light in the world was not enough for a whole room.

Robert Duvall, as Hester's husband, is the one that benefits in his new role, not so much as cuckold, but as a man that is hell bent on revenge, one that may even hurt the welfare of the town by playing the Indians against the white man. Gary Oldman, as the priest that has become in love with Hester, but is living a much greater hell than Hester's symbol of her impropriety.

Just about everyone in the film is very good, and the film is, all in all, really nice to watch from beginning to the end.

3.5 GIBLOONS

 

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