In the 17th century Massachusetts, a married women, whose husband is missing, has a child with the local pastor. The puritanical residents of her town condemn her to carry the Scarlet Letter of shame. Then the husband shows up.
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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
(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 »
Why should anyone find it necessary or even appropriate to hijack one of the landmark works of American literature to replace it with an emotionally slack, thematically vacant, and feebly agenda-driven narrative? Demi Moore's curious Scarlet Letter is almost an hour underway before it even reaches the point where Hawthorne's book begins: whereas Hawthorne's novel is a study of sin, psychological torment, and forgiveness, this film has neither heart nor mind behind its high-gloss presentation: it is apparently a libertine tract in defense of adultery, and an attack, pretentiously lofty but incapable of more than junior-high subtlety of thought, on intolerance.
This can only be pulled off at all by systematically reducing Hawthorne's three-dimensional characters to flat and dull-witted markers, inane in their dialogue, a set of manic and breathy artifacts of a soap-opera sensibility. Accordingly, the characters of Hester Prynne (Moore) and her erstwhile husband Roger Chillingworth (Robert Duvall) emerge as parodies of themselves -- bad acting and bad direction across the board by one bad actress and one good actor. Gary Oldman's Arthur Dimmesdale is astoundingly more or less credible for whole scenes at a time, but he has nothing to play against, and the thematic underpinnings of the story have been knocked out from under him. One can defend this film for its cinematography, for its score, and for any number of other production-based virtues, but when they are all added together, they still don't come close to justifying the film's existence. It is a vulgar and banal demolition of one of America's greatest novels.
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