Sunday, June 01, 2008

Movie review: A Man for All Seasons

Huge, sweeping story of Sir Thomas More, an English lawyer and statesman during the reign of Henry VIII. The principled More is played convincingly by Paul Scofield, against the equally believable Robert Shaw as bombastic, temperamental Henry VIII.

More than just a costume drama, whether historically accurate or not, the acting is superb, the costumes and sets are lavish.

As Henry seeks his divorce from first wife Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn, it is More alone who stands against him, refusing to agree that the marriage is illegal (Henry had married his brother's widow). Henry, obsessed with siring an heir, has convinced himself that Catherine's failure to bear a son is due to God's displeasure at the marriage. Conveniently, he's already found a replacement in Anne Boleyn.

Despite More's objection, Henry breaks with the Catholic church and forms the Church of England. While his fellow nobles rally to the "new religion," More remains steadfastly Catholic, and refuses to recognize Henry's claim as head of the church.

This in turn costs More his head, in a well-cut (forgive the pun) final scene.

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