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The Scarlet Letter (1995)

 -  Drama | Romance  -  13 October 1995 (USA)
5.0
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Ratings: 5.0/10 from 10,322 users  
Reviews: 85 user | 33 critic

An affair between a young woman and a pastor has disastrous consequences.

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(novel), (screenplay)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
Lisa Andoh ...
Mituba (as Lisa Joliffe-Andoh)
...
Gov. John Bellingham
...
Horace Stonehall
...
Rev. Thomas Cheever
...
Malcolm Storry ...
Maj. Dunsmuir
James Bearden ...
Goodman Mortimer (as Jim Bearden)
...
Goody Mortimer
...
Goody Gotwick
George Aguilar ...
Johnny Sassamon
...
Brewster Stonehall
...
Elizabeth Cheever
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Storyline

In 1666 in the Massachusetts Bay colony, Puritans and Algonquian have an uneasy truce. Hester arrives from England, seeking independence. Awaiting her husband, she establishes independence, fixing up a house, befriending Quakers and other outsiders. Passion draws her to a young pastor. He feels the same; when they learn her husband has probably died at the hands of Indians, they consummate their love. A child is born, and on the day Hester is publicly humiliated and made to wear a scarlet letter, her husband appears after a year with Indians. Calling himself Chillingworth, he seeks revenge, searching out Hester's lover and stirring fears of witchcraft. Will his murderous plot succeed? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

When intimacy is forbidden and passion is a sin, love is the most defiant crime of all.

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence and sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

13 October 1995 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Scarlet Letter  »

Box Office

Budget:

$50,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$10,400,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

|

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

After bad reviews and a disastrous box office performance in the States, it was released in UK cinemas without being screened for critics, a first for a major UK release. See more »

Goofs

When Hester starts to follow the red bird into the forest, once she's gotten deeper in the woods, you can see to the left of the screen three deliberate puffs of white smoke coming from a fog machine. See more »

Quotes

[to the crowd gathered for Hester's hanging]
Reverand Arthur Dimmesdale: In God's eyes, I am her husband.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Lara Flynn Boyle/Bon Jovi (2001) See more »

Soundtracks

Agnus Dei
(Based on Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings")
Performed by Robert Shaw and the Robert Shaw Festival Singers
(Adm. by G. Schirmen Inc. (ASCAP))
Courtesy of Telarc International Corporation
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Shallow lies wrapped in easy to swallow eye candy.
20 April 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I just caught this movie on cable. Eager to see a film version of the Hawthorne book I was, Very Disappointed. It is sad that some people will think that this is the real Scarlet Letter. The names of characters are the same as the book but it rapidly departs from the book beyond that -- and for the worse.

You will read commentaries here about what a wonderful film this was with discussions of the beautiful cinematography and great acting. They will also say how it is "loosely adapted" from Hawthornes' book. These are all true statements and the "loose" in loosely should be especially emphasized. I even agree that normally an adaption might be judged on its own merits.

So why did I give this a low score?

Because it is titled "The Scarlet Letter". That is a classical book with some very deep moral messages. The very term "Scarlet Letter" has taken on a special meaning in our language and culture. But, if someone recognizes what Hawthorne was trying to do with his book, they will immediately see this as a rotten-to-the-core script. Consider: the Scarlet Letter, a central theme in the book and holding so much meaning, is just a minor prop in this movie that almost gets in the way.

In Hawthorne's book, the heroine, by her actions through life, turned the Scarlet Letter from meaning "Adulteress" to meaning "Angel" -- it became an emblem of her inner beauty, redeemed through her strength, integrity and good heart. In our own time, people often find themselves "labeled" or identified in some way as bad or as a loser. What a great thing it is to have messages that say "You can rise above that!". This movie completely and totally misses that opportunity. It is one of the great messages that can be given to others in this life, and it is abandoned in this movie.

And what is it traded for? Feminism, rebellion and justifications of immorality. Edgy? Groundbreaking? Incisive? No. So shallow its like cliff diving in a birdbath compared with what Hawthorne brought. In this adaptation, Hester, the heroine claims to not know if what she did was wrong -- or sometimes suggesting it was right. From that high moral ground, Hester almost becomes a feminist warrior or icon leading an insurrection of women against men. That rebellion is ridiculous historically but worse, it completely guts the morality of the book. And the Scarlet Letter? From what I can tell, the movie Hester seems to finally throw it away when she gets her freedom. It has no meaning other than as a talisman for oppression.

That is a different message than the book gave out. But the Movie is still called "The Scarlet Letter". If the screenwriter wanted to send out a different moral message, then he should have retitled the movie. Something like "Hester's Anachronistic and Pointless Rebellion" would have been good. Then it would be truth in advertising.

The actors and technicians did a great job but after reading the script they should have dropped the project. I suppose they needed the money. Beautifully shot, well acted, great score ... it still gets a "1" for being an egregious lie.


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