The Crucible by Nicolas Hytner

The second scene I have chosen to focus on is when Elizabeth Proctor tells the judges that her husband did not commit adultery, when in fact he did, just to protect him from any legal prosecution. The room is set up in a very ordered way, much like the judges like to think they are, and everything is made from wood as it would have been back then. This set-up adds authenticity. As this movie was directed at people with some knowledge, along with others, then this will make them comfortable with the surroundings and give the movie an older/historic feel.

The only sound we hear in this scene is diagetic. The progression of the film is mainly by straight cuts apart from a few exceptions. One of the exceptions being when Elizabeth is first called to the courtroom and the camera is positioned on the doors. We see Herrick open the doors and then Elizabeth standing there in a medium close up shot. This shot only shows us what we would see if we were inside the court room, ‘looking on’. This shot really makes us feel as if we are there and emphasises the pressure and importance of what Elizabeth says next.

As she enters and walks to the front of the room everybody is silent until Danforth begins to speak. This reminds me of the green mile. Elizabeth walks very slowly and as it is so quiet the distance seems much longer than it actually is; like walking the green mile. This again really emphasises the tension and importance of the next few minutes. As she walks we see a point of view shot of Elizabeth and from this we see Danforth standing in the middle with Abigail and Proctor, backs turned, standing either side of him.

The proxemics here shows a near symmetrical, static composition. More importantly though, one of the first things I noticed was the size of the courtroom. This is more noticeable when just one or two people are being questioned in there. As the hall is so large it makes the characters being interrogated look extremely small and insignificant. This could also make others appear more domineering by showing them in closer shots and by showing individuals who are supposed to be less important or vulnerable in more distant shots.

This, again, will add to that sense of smallness and insignificance. Throughout this scene the camera shows us a medium shot of certain characters during or just before a pivotal line to show us their reaction. An example would be when Abigail is shown just as Proctor delivers the shocking truth about his relationship with her. She flings her head up to look at him with a look of horror on her face and then the camera shows Proctor and his reaction: that of a broken man. During Elizabeth’s final lines of any real importance, there are many periods of silence when she pauses.

This shows hesitation and accentuates how much she is thinking about alternate ways in which to put across what she knows without condemning her husband. As I watched the film I noticed a shot of Proctor early in his wife’s interrogation, the point at which she informs Danforth that her husband is a good man. In this shot, Proctor shows the audience a clear expression of disappointment and that of giving up hope. It suggests that he knows Elizabeth will slip up and lie for him. This part is particularly dramatic and will appeal to the female audience.

Many women enjoy films with a sentimental approach and so this romantic addition will capture them. Another aspect of the film women would enjoy is the characters chosen; Daniel Day-Lewis. He could be seen as a ‘heart-throb’. Whilst Elizabeth speaks there is a continual flow of non-diagetic sound. This sound is composed of many low notes to add to the pressure and add to the feel of danger and importance in what she says. Along with this background music, the camera zooms in on her slowly just before she delivers the crucial lines which condemn John Proctor.

The camera slowly gets closer adding artificial pressure on her and then stops momentarily just before the pivotal lines. As these lines are spoken a low drum thud is heard. This to me acts as a representation of his life falling apart or his hope diminishing. Another clever technique used by the director is a beam of light appearing behind Elizabeth whilst she speaks, which connotes a likeness to an angel or good person. This tells the audience that by lying for her husband she feels she is doing the right thing and lies with good intentions.

Despite the shots changing though straight cuts they don’t always change as the speech does, which we generally expect. Overall, I feel that the film was well directed. Each camera technique had a reason and prompted a reaction from the viewer, mentally, if not physically. I think they work because each technique has a connotation into which we read like a book. They give us information without having to physically state what is happening through words, or by acting.

We can also be given hidden meanings through the connotations of each technique and these will give us extra information or simply aid your understanding of the film. I think that this film does do what it sets out to: It definitely creates the historic setting very well, it attempts to portray the language they would have spoken through the characters’ speech, there is some violence implemented to capture some of the male audience, and there is also a romantic and emotional side which most women love. I feel that after viewing the film it contains different storylines which would attract the director’s target audience.

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