5.2/10
13,235
92 user 35 critic

The Scarlet Letter (1995)

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

Director:

Roland Joffé

Writers:

Nathaniel Hawthorne (novel), Douglas Day Stewart (screenplay)
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1 win & 10 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Demi Moore ... Hester Prynne
Gary Oldman ... Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale
Robert Duvall ... Roger Chillingworth
Lisa Andoh Lisa Andoh ... Mituba (as Lisa Joliffe-Andoh)
Edward Hardwicke ... Gov. John Bellingham
Robert Prosky ... Horace Stonehall
Roy Dotrice ... Rev. Thomas Cheever
Joan Plowright ... Harriet Hibbons
Malcolm Storry ... Maj. Dunsmuir
James Bearden James Bearden ... Goodman Mortimer (as Jim Bearden)
Larissa Laskin ... Goody Mortimer
Amy Wright ... Goody Gotwick
George Aguilar ... Johnny Sassamon
Tim Woodward ... Brewster Stonehall
Joan Gregson ... 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:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 October 1995 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

La letra escarlata See more »

Filming Locations:

British Columbia, Canada See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$50,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$10,400,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Three original scores were written for this film. The ones by Ennio Morricone and Elmer Bernstein were rejected. The one used, was by John Barry. See more »

Goofs

Nicholas Rice is credited as playing the clerk, but the role was actually played by someone else. See more »

Quotes

Reverand Arthur Dimmesdale: Rev. Dimmensdale: Gary Oldman: Oh, yes, I... I'm sorry, I didn't realize. I should have announced my presence. What are you reading?
Hester Prynne:
  • Hester Prynne: Demi Moore "Comus", it's by John - John Milton.

Reverand Arthur Dimmesdale: Rev. Dim: I know it. I've read it. Have you?
Hester Prynne: Hester P.: I'm not all counterpanes and coverlets.
See more »

Connections

Version of The Scarlet Letter (1926) 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 Charles SteinmanSee 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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