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The story takes place in 16th century England. But men like Sir Thomas More, who love life yet have the moral fiber to lay down their lives for their principles, are found in every century. Concentrating on the last seven years of English chancellor's life, the struggle between More and his King, Henry VIII, hinges on Henry's determination to break with Rome so he can divorce his current wife and wed again, and good Catholic More's inability to go along with such heresy. More resigns as chancellor, hoping to be able to live out his life as a private citizen. But Henry will settle for nothing less than that the much respected More give public approval to his headstrong course. Written by
In the first (London) run of the play, Leo McKern played not Cromwell but the Common Man, a narrator-figure who addresses the audience and plays several characters in the story - More's servant Matthew, the man who rows him home, his jailer, etc. These characters also appear in the film, but are played by several actors. The original stage device of having them all played by the same actor was kept in the 1988 version. In the play, the lines stating what happened to the historical figures after More's death are spoken by the 'Common Man'; in the film, they are spoken in voice-over at the end by Colin Blakely, who plays Matthew. See more »
When Henry VIII's court enters Sir Thomas' yard, their feet are no longer muddy after the previous shot showed them getting muddy. See more »
[first spoken lines are over 6 minutes into the film]
...there's the country every second bastard born is fathered by a priest.
[clears throat to get More's attention]
Why, in Utopia, that couldn't be.
Well, there the priests are very holy.
Therefore, very few.
Sir Thomas More:
Is it anything interesting, Matthew?
Bless you, sir, I don't know.
[...] See more »
This is one of my favorite films. It is of perfect length and pacing, and the script is one of the best ever written. The acting, direction, and design of this movie are uniformly excellent. The segue into Henry VIII's entrance is alone reason for seeing the movie. The production design is top-notch, both beautiful and--unlike many "costume dramas"--not so overwhelming as to lose the actors among outrageous sets and costumes. For an adaptation of a stage play, a remarkable proportion of the action taking place outdoors, with More's house at Chelsea being particularly lovely.
It's very easy to see this film superficially as a moral fable, and many people scoff at it as being a stagy morality play. But it's both more subtle and more vibrant that that. The subtlety of Robert Bolt's script lies in its exploration of identity. We're not meant to identify or admire More's religious ideas, which the movie actually tiptoes around. Instead it's what Bolt called More's "adamantine sense of his own self" that the movie really highlights.
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