101 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not quite Utopia
Films such as this are rare today; 'A Man for All Seasons' turns not on action sequences of battles past or present, nor on love affairs, or indeed political issues that have a burning relevance for today. It is not a comedy, nor a tragedy in the classic sense. In a word, it would seem to have little to recommend it -- however, it is one of the best film ever produced...
Published on 3 Feb 2005 by Kurt Messick
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Heavily cut version
This is a very poor version of the film. It's been heavily cut. I suggest you carefully compare run times before you buy any version of this film.
Published 5 months ago by B. Hudson
Most Helpful First | Newest First
101 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not quite Utopia,
The whole tone of the film is excellent. From the opening scenes of couriers dashing from Wolsey to More, backdrops of pre-Renaissance England fill the screen, from the magnificent but appropriate un-ornate manor houses and parliamentary scenes (the set of Westminster Hall, a building in which I once worked) to the costuming and music, period in style and instrumentation. The director Fred Zimmermann resisted the urge to provide orchestral music as a background; indeed, through much of the film, there is no music at all, as the drama itself carries the weight of the narrative and atmosphere. The cinematographer, Ted Moore, as well as the director received Academy Awards for their work.
This is an actor's film, the force of the drama being driven by their performances. Exceptional acting by John Hurt, Leo McKern, Nigel Davenport and Robert Shaw enhance lead actor Paul Scofield's Oscar-winning portrayal. Scofield presents the intellectual More as a character of supreme integrity (following Bolt's play perfectly), an integrity hard to maintain in the shifting sands of Henry VIII's drive to break with Rome to secure a divorce. More, as chancellor of England after Wolsey (portrayed in a slightly-more-than-cameo appearance by an effective but declining Orson Welles), was charged with maintaining both peace with the King and his faithfulness to the church, of which he was an acknowledged intellectual leader throughout Europe. In the end, the church won out -- as More said at his execution, 'I remain the King's good subject, but God's first.'
Hurt and McKern portray Richard Rich and Thomas Cromwell, schemers and social climbers of which royal courts are always full. Nigel Davenport as the friend who becomes an enemy, himself turned by the political tides, is also effective, but the best role beyond Scofield's is that Robert Shaw, who portrays the 'lion of England', Henry VIII, capricious and volatile, far too taken with his own sense of purpose and without many courageous enough to stand against him.
The roles of More's wife Alice (Wendy Hiller) and daughter Meg (Susannah York) are admirably played. Alice as the illiterate yet intelligent wife of More is concerned for the family's well-being; Meg as the educated daughter (More's experimental school practiced, generations ahead of its time, gender equality in education) almost steals the scene from Shaw at one point. Hiller's performance as More's companion up to the scene in the Tower is strongly portrayed, and she does not lose her character in the face of so many other powerful figures.
Rare in film-making today, the full force of the plot develops upon the device of Qui tacet consentit - silence implies consent. More relied on the legal idea that, so long as he did not speak out against the king, his silence implied consent and he was safe. However, as Cromwell (correctly) argued, More's silence was not meaningless, nor was it taken as consent by any who knew him. On this one point, More's integrity falters, for he was intelligent enough to know that the truth was different from the legal fiction; however, this was also the position he maintained regarding Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn.
This is not a feel-good movie; indeed, the final narration makes one wonder rather at the idea of justice in the world. Yet it is a meaningful and stunning film, and one deserving of viewing by all.
47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Conscience of the King,
This review is from: A Man For All Seasons (Collector's Edition)  [DVD]  (DVD)I remember the first time I saw this film in the mid-Sixties in Middlesbrough on a school trip. I thought it utterly wonderful, most of my classmates thought it wordy and foolish.
Sir Thomas More is played as a man of unbending conscience who depends upon his lawyerly skills to keep him from the axe (for this is England, not Spain) as such it is an evocation of the joys of hairsplitting. At times almost Shakesperarian in its language, it is a play about words and what they mean. More must seem a terribly unreal person to our present generations, but Scofield plays him very believably as a rather autistic good man who finds the foibles of others hard to accept. He is surrounded by a bevy of thespian talent. Nigel Davenport as the stentorian Duke of Norfolk, Leo McKern as the evil Cromwell, John Hurt as the man who gains all and loses all, Robert Shaw giving us a Henry VIII that (like Alec Guinesses's Charles I) sticks in the mind; and Colin Blakeney as the servant Matthew. It's a joy to behold. (And I've forgotten to mention Orson Welles and many many others).
I cannot think how many times I've seen it; please give it a shot, I think you'll enjoy it.
37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Film For All Collections,
This review is from: A Man For All Seasons (Collector's Edition)  [DVD]  (DVD)This tells the better known part of the story of Sir Thomas More, who was raised from lawyer and then judge to become Lord Chancellor or England, only to be sentenced to death and beheaded for treason, having failed to take an oath which would legitimize the divorce of Henry VIII from his Spanish wife and his soon-following marriage to Anne Boleyn (later also beheaded). More's book "Utopia" is not mentioned in this film. The film itself is a production of such quality that it is hard to praise it enough. Directed by Fred Zinnemann, the photography, especially of "sweet Thames" and its bird life, is of the highest and most moving quality, though in fact filmed not on the Thames itself (the banks of which are now largely developed between Hampton Court and Chelsea) but on the Beaulieu River in Hampshire. The acting likewise, featuring some of the best British film actors of the time of filming, as well as Orson Welles (playing the previous Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey). The screenplay by the unrivalled Robert Bolt is what really puts the seal on this most valued film. If you have never seen A Man For All Seasons, see it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a monument to the craft of film making,
This review is from: A Man For All Seasons (Collector's Edition)  [DVD]  (DVD)There are a few films that can be described as monuments to the craft of film making. I reckon this is one. Fred Zinnemann adopts a calm, deliberate style of exposition, with no flamboyance. His camera seeks out no clever angles, attempts no bold sweeps - only the occasional use of an oblique image, standing for something left to the viewer's imagination, represents his fullest departure from an almost stage-like focus on the characters. His direction thus lets the inherent drama of the political conflict, and the issue of conscience at its centre, build to a mighty conclusion. The cast are superb, particularly Paul Scofield as More, Wendy Hiller as his wife, and Robert Shaw as Henry VIII, but to single them out is not to detract from a host of other great performances. For me, though, it is the screenplay by Robert Bolt that most assuredly stamps this production as one of enduring value. He has written scenes that resonate like Shakespeare, and with a wit that bears comparison with the bard.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Film for All Viewers,
Zinnemann's adaptaion of the Robert Boltman play was done on a low budget, and whilst it takes artistic license slightly further, the film remains a historical masterpiece. Paul Schofield as More is magnificent, combining a stoical adherence to truth on the one hand, with a dry wit on the other, and this is an accuracy of depiction that could not have been drawn from the words of the script. Robert Shaw as Henry is also fantastic, showing the viewer both the very personal side of the monarch, when he is disappointed at More's non-attendence at the wedding to Anne Boleyn; and the aggression of a lion as he shouts (in full hearing of all party guests) - "I ask you, do they take me for a simpleton?" The swift change from an amiable friend to a dominating absolute monarch is brilliantly played by Shaw, and though it is a marked contrast to the plain More, the performances are equally great.
In October 2000, John Paul II made Thomas More the Patron of politicians (he was already the unofficial patron of Catholic lawyers in the UK). Both positions indicate what a great man he was. A scholar of great learning, a man of letters, a liberal in an autocratic age. His character was perhaps best displayed as his end, in his words to the executioner - "Pluck up thy spirits, man, and be not afraid to do thine office; my neck is very short; take heed therefore thou strike not awry, for saving of thine honesty." The combination of humor and greatness, even in the face of death, povide a role model for all.
If you enjoy the film, read the play and 'The Life of Sir Thomas More' by William Roper, his nephew. Although it bears relation to a specific incident, this popular poem of the time is a fitting epitaph for this great man -
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gritty, Gripping, Flawless!,
Although it is true that More did torture heretics that by today standards may seem somewhat barbaric, you must keep in mind the societal/political period in which More lived - this was the English renaissance 15th century, and laws and social mandate were remarkably different to the modern day society we all know. Needless to say this does not justify such an act of cruelty. However, law is a key theme of this film. And it is most likely that More's interrogation and torturing answered to hard-line politics intolerant of heretical viewpoints. More did not create legislation, but was renowned for his obedience to the law (which if not for Richard Rich perjury would have saved his neck!) and foremost his impartiality as a statesman.
A Man for All Seasons is a film carried by fantastic script-writing, impeccable acting from all members of the cast, and authentic cinematography that really generates the atmosphere of the period. Unlike many modern hollywood movies that largely incorporate special effects, this is quite simply a film of substance over style. For those who may be slightly dubious as regards to the religious context, do not be dissuaded, for this is a film for people of all beliefs, especially those interested in the virtues of integrity, conviction, and courage in the face of adversity.
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Film For All Time,
This review is from: A Man For All Seasons (Collector's Edition)  [DVD]  (DVD)"A Man For All Seasons" is one of my all time favourite films. It is absolutely faultless and could not possibly be bettered. I have seen it so many times I think I know the whole script by heart! Every actor and actress are perfect for their part.I could mention them all but then I would go on for ages so I will confine myself to just a few comments. There will never be a better cameo performance on screen of Henry VIII to match that of Robert Shaw; Wendy Hillier's leavetaking of her husband in the Tower brings tears to the eyes every time; Orson Welles is just awesome as Cardinal Wolsey; and Paul Scofield, of course, is matchless in every way. "Utopia" by the way IS mentioned - in the very first scene!
Buy this and watch again and again - there is something to reward you every time.
Ray Taylor - Barnsley
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An opportunity to learn and enjoy through fine acting,
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A personal, unlearned, opinion,
This review is from: A Man for All Seasons  [VHS] (VHS Tape)I have read some of the more "learned" opinions of this film, and have to bow to the greater knowledge of those who have studied the characters portrayed, and their true histories. I have seen another version of this story - actors etc. now forgotten - but this time the underlying politics, personal stand-points and emotions were much more evident to me. One has to listen to every word and consider every phrase to gain the maximum from the dialogue, and thus from the story. Watch it two or three times, you might just understand the arguments if you do!
I cannot judge the accuracy, others seem to have done so - but there seems, to me, to be a window into Tudor politics in this film, and a feeling that politics may not have changed much since...
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic,
This review is from: A Man For All Seasons (Collector's Edition)  [DVD]  (DVD)Robert Shaw, Paul Schofield, Orson Welles, Wendy Hiller, Leo McKern, John Hurt, Susannah York etc., etc.
You just are never, never going to get a cast line up like that ever again. At the time, the best actors in the Anglo world. Americans, Canadians, Irish, Australians and Brits at their best.
A story of one man's conscience and the consequences of going against his one time friend, Henry VIII.
A must have movie.
Buy and enjoy.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
A Man For All Seasons (Collector's Edition)  [DVD]  by Fred Zinnemann (DVD - 2007)