Jump to content
DanBuck

A Man For All Seasons

Recommended Posts

I just want to give everybody a heads up. If I'm not mistaken, the lesser-seen "A Man For All Seasons" TV movie--the one that Charlton Heston stars and directs, with Vanessa Redgrave (again) and Sir John Gielgud, will be on TCM Monday, Aug 5, at 5:15pm. Set your DVRs.


Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I actually like the Charlton Heston version better. This is the only time I've really wanted to use that smiley hiding behind a couch.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just wanted to pop in and say that I saw this movie for the first time today and quite loved it. I know @kenmorefield has written and spoken about it at one of his favorites, and I can see why. There's something very refreshing about stories in which the central conflict is simply around people's integrity, or lack thereof. They make me want to be more accountable in my own life for my actions, particularly those which may not align with some of my professed values. I'm sure the fact that I've been reading Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" with my students and discussing the merits of living entirely by one's conscience is also a factor.

I was reminded of another, more recent film, which also centers on a man who refuses to swear an oath of allegiance: Malick's A Hidden Life. I'm struck by how, in both films, the protagonists do not judge those who disagree with them, provided they can reasonably assume the person person is also acting on their respective conscience. This is something I struggle with in my own life when I encounter people of opposing views, and films like these make me more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, morally speaking. I'm struck by how More ultimately had more faith that the law would save him, often using technicalities to his advantage, but ultimately the law was not on his side. Jaggerstatter, in contrast, seems to know that if he is to keep his life it will only be because the law is ignored or bypassed.

I feel like there have been a plethora other films recently that also focused on "men of conscience," or at the very least, men who were willing to sacrifice their careers (if not their lives) in combating injustice and immorality by the state or by corporations. Last year also gave us Dark Waters... though others have faded from memory. Perhaps I'm sensing a trend where there isn't one. However, I wonder if we might not see more films about "individuals fighting the system" and the true cost of "resistance" in the future due to our current political moment. Anyone had any thoughts on this?

Edited by WriterAndrew
forgot to tag ken

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Andrew,
I see that I never actually posted a link to my review here. Perhaps because looking over this thread I've been puzzled at some of the directions the discussion goes and not particularly patient with them Anyway, here's my review: http://1morefilmblog.com/2017/05/24/favorite-film-series-a-man-for-all-seasons-zinnemann-1966/

Quote

 

It didn’t help matters that the friendly critiques were all over the map: the film was too Catholic; the film was too stagey; the film was too misogynistic; the film was not Catholic enough… I developed a checklist of scripted answers to such complaints, much like a teenager being forced to defend Creationism in a God’s Not Dead movie. But when I watched by myself, the flaws became more noticeable. Gradually, I became reluctant to revisit the film at all, afraid that I might have lost that loving feeling for good.

I didn’t.

 

I like what you said about the personal effects of More's portrayal. I think I recall one of my early posts in this thread (deleted in one my purges) was about making good attractive...making people want to be good rather than just telling you someone else is good. That's one area where the film is quite effective. 

 

Quote

 I'm struck by how More ultimately had more faith that the law would save him, often using technicalities to his advantage, but ultimately the law was not on his side. Jaggerstatter, in contrast, seems to know that if he is to keep his life it will only be because the law is ignored or bypassed.

I see that I mentioned current events in my review from 2017:
 

Quote

The naivete of characters on the brink of and in the midst of political sea changes no longer seems quite so cliche. In fact, the arrival on the world’s stage of another orange-haired adolescent autocrat actually makes the film look better in at least one regard: it has never in my life felt more relevant. Whether it be Wolsey’s “regrettable” abdication of conscience to avoid dynastic wars or Henry’s self-serving insistence that a man doesn’t need a pope to tell him when he’s sinned, the film reminds us that the Church and its defenders always somehow seem to be in more danger from those who would abuse and misuse its powers than from infidels or secularists.

Perhaps another thing I admire about the film is that different parts of it have been resonant at different parts of my life. We can sometimes talk about art being "timeless" as a way of saying outside of time. But perhaps that means being able to relevant in different times. Which is, of course, ironic given the film's title.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for linking to your review, Ken. It delved into some nuances I hadn't considered, particularly around gender. I think you're right that the film does subtly support patriarchy, yet I'm willing to forgive that based on the time in which it is set and the fact that, as you point out, at least its patriarchy is not outright abusive.

I'm not sure I feel that the idea that More is "too perfect" to be a fair criticism -- or rather, to be a criticism at all. While it's certainly not uncommon to see heroes who are purely "heroic" or "good" in a superficial way, I think it's far more rare to see characters who are purely admirable that feel relatable and multi-dimension, as characters like More and Jaggerstater do (at least to me). Perhaps it's because that in both A Man For All Seasons and A Hidden Life I get the impression that, while the men are firm in their convictions, they grew to point over a long period of time, through careful thought and prayer and reflection. They are not simply "the good guy." 

I'm reminded of what C.S. Lewis wrote in his Preface to Paradise Lost when considering the character of Satan and how much easier it is to write evil characters than good ones: "To make a character worse than oneself it is only necessary to release imaginatively from control some of the bad passions which, in real life, are always straining at the leash... But if you try to draw a character better than yourself, all you can do is to take the best moments you have had and to imagine them prolonged and more consistently embodied in action. But the real high virtues which we do not possess at all, we cannot depict except in a purely external fashion. We do not really know what it feels like to be a man much better than ourselves. His whole inner landscape is one we have never seen, and when we guess it we blunder. It is in their 'good' characters that novelists make, unawares, the most shocking self-revelations. Heaven understands Hell and Hell does not understand Heaven, and all of us, in our measure, share the Satanic, or at least the Napoleonic, blindness. To project ourselves into a wicked character, we have only to stop doing something, and something that we are already tired of doing; to project ourselves into a good one we have to do what we cannot and become what we are not."

Perhaps part of the reason I respond to movies like this is that they seem to be doing the impossible: presenting someone I judge to be far better than myself in a way that seems not so far out of reach.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...