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The 2010 Glen Workshop In Santa Fe, NM

Movie Poster for Carl Theodor Dreyer's Ordet
Directed by Peter Glenville
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Written by Jean Anouilh (Play)
Lucienne Hill (Translation)
Edward Anhalt
Music by Laurence Rosenthal
Cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth
Editing by Anne V. Coates
Release Date 1964
Running Time 148 min.
Language English
More Information


A film that has often invited comparisons to A Man for All Seasons (Top 100 #31), Becket is also the story of a high official in Britain who chooses God over king and is slain for his beliefs. Thomas Becket begins the movie as the king's closest friend, and thus his transformation into God's man and the king's opponent seems all the more striking. The power of the Christian idea had never before captured him; but the reality of actually being responsible for the well-being of the children of God changes his life. 

But King Henry II's power has gone to his head (on several occasions he refers to one of his unfortunate subjects as "it"). He can only relate to Becket, whom he considers his ethnic inferior, if Becket submits all aspects of his life to the king. Even Becket's wife is subjected to gross mistreatment by the king, to test Becket's willingness to sacrifice anything for the king's good pleasure. When the Archbishop of Canterbury dies, Becket is appointed to the position—over his own objections—because the king is sure he will be his stooge. 

The effect of his ordination to the episcopate is immediate (perhaps a bit too immediate). Before, his honor was sold to the highest bidder—the king. Now his honor goes to God. As he tells the king, "you have introduced me to deeper obligations." 

The friendship of these two men forms the emotional heart of the story. Henry hates Thomas for standing up to him, but loves him for much the same reason. He loved Thomas because he was a man without deceit. Now that this man of honor has found a more honorable monarch, the king reacts like a jilted lover, as though if he cannot have Thomas Becket for his own, then no one can have him.  

The story of Becket is significant not only because of Becket's new understanding of God, but also because it shows the dangers of idolatrously placing a person at the central position of our universe, a place only God can rightly claim. 

—David Smedberg

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