THE CRUCIBLE (1996)

Scene Analysis

[1]     The Crucible starts out with the gaining of power, but by the filmís end, no one is left with it.  Control has been lost because the situation itself has become so chaotic.  The movement of the film steadily shifts downward with the increase in chaos and the loss of control.  In the beginning, the girls suddenly gain the power, which they could wield to place vengeance on those who betray them or speak ill of them.  Then the judges come along to supposedly clean the town of the devil.  First of all, how can they think themselves so high and mighty as to abolish the devil?  In giving themselves this immense duty, they also obtain the power to give the accused life or death, which is the equivalent to the power of God.  Throughout The Crucible, scenes become more chaotic; those who were in control suddenly find themselves in a whirlwind of events out of their hands.  What was planned by the girls and the judges change altogether, and the outcome becomes unknown to everyone.  What everybody wants, they do not get at the end.

[2]     This scene is the trial scene after John Proctor brings Mary Warren to court for her confession and when Judge Danforth confronts the girls to find out the truth (1:20:30).  It demonstrates the loss of control by all those who once held the power.  In the beginning of the scene, Mary Warren wants to admit to the judges about the lies that she and the girls have told.  Danforth pressures Mary, asking her why she suddenly has changed her mind and is it the devil that has done it.  She watches in horror as the girls team up against her because of her betrayal of their circle.  She makes aimless attempts to stop the girls, but the leader, Abigail Williams, suddenly screams in horror at the sight she sees.  She sees a yellow bird perched on the ceiling beam, which she says is the spirit of Mary come to torture her and the girls.  Suddenly the girls bolt out of the courtroom as the yellow bird supposedly attacks them.  When the girls run out of the courtroom, the audience sees the whole village screaming and running everywhere, not knowing where they are going.  This shot of the whole village represents the mob hysteria theme of the film.  Itís also important to notice that the townspeople are following the girls and running to the water with them.  They blindly follow these girls and have no idea where they are going.

[3]     The scene begins with Mary Warren losing control.  She wants to confess to the judges that what the girls told were all lies, but she soon finds out that she no longer has that choice.  She is being attacked from all sides, from the girls who use their power to shift the blame toward her to Danforth, who believes she might be in league with the devil.  She was once a part of a team that has the power to bring the whole village down.  Mary only had power as a team member and has lost her self in the process.  With this power comes a price -- the loss of control over herself and her choices.  In this situation, if she does confess, she would be punished by the judges and shunned by the girls.  She finds that itís in her best interest not to confess and, at the end of the scene, blames John Proctor for her lapse in judgment.

[4]     When Mary realizes that her attempts are futile, she points a finger at John.  Suddenly the audience comes face to face with Abigail who is devastated by Maryís accusation.  Abigailís plan was to have Johnís wife hanged and have him for herself.  ďAbigail enjoys playing God until the circumstances she sets in motion gain enough momentum to escape her control.  Late in the film, her eyes express the horror that she feels as the crushing ramifications of her masquerade emergeĒ (Berardinelli).  She is the leader of the pack and what she says goes.  She has power over the village and these girls, and nobody wants to cross her.  She definitely has the most power; even the judges believe every word she says.  This scene demonstrates the devastation she feels as her plan goes out of control.  She could no longer have the one thing she wanted and that was John.

[5]     This scene mostly expresses the loss of control for Mary and Abigail, but the judges in a broader sense have also lost power.  The judges are also the ones who gained power in the beginning because they were chosen to preside over the trials and can condemn those who they think are guilty.  They came to this town thinking they can save the people, maybe because they are used to accomplishing their goals.  They donít realize the difficult task ahead of them because they are accustomed to being in control of the situation.  When they first enter the screen, we feel their presence, especially of Danforth.  They come on a mission to save Salem Village but end up getting involved with the disgrace of the town.  In this scene, Danforth confronts the girls and tells them they will be punished if they have been lying.  He uses fear to question Mary and the girls, and it seems like heís threatening them to make them say what he wants to hear.  He doesnít want to hear the truth.  If he finds out, then all he stands for is also a lie, and he will lose his credibility and respect.  These judges think they are abolishing the devil, but they are really condemning innocent people and sending them to their deaths.  It seems more like they are doing the work of the devil than the work of God.  Even at the end, Danforth realizes how everything is getting out of control when Abigail starts accusing Reverend Haleís wife.  He tries to right it by getting John to confess, but it does not work out the way he wants it to.

[6]     From the beginning of the scene, the camera positions are very distinct.  First, we see it loom over Abigail as if the audience is the yellow bird that she sees.  We look at her accusingly knowing her evil intent.  The girls run outside, and they huddle together as if to protect themselves.  We swoop down on them, and they try to escape our accusing eyes.  This type of birdís-eye view makes the audience a part of the scene and makes them the aggressor.  No one has taken action against the girls apart from John, so we as an audience decide to attack.  Even the quick cuts from the girls to Mary demonstrate the action and intensity in the scene.  Everything is very fast-paced, with no direction.  Itís important that the audience is submerged in the scene.  Throughout the film, we are the only ones aware of whatís going on from everybodyís perspective.  We know how ridiculous it all is and want to punish those that deserve it.

[7]     This scene also is important in demonstrating the research Arthur Miller has done and how meticulous he is at showing the details of the Salem witch trials.  Abigail screams that she is seeing a yellow bird perched on the ceiling beam.  Many of the girls from the actual trials claimed that they saw the spirits of the accused in different forms such as birds, cats, or dogs.  After Mary denies that the girls are seeing her spirit, the girls start repeating what she says.  This was similar to what the girls did in the actual courtroom.  When the accused looked at the girls, they suddenly went into a state in which they imitated the ďwitches.Ē  The girls claimed that the accused tried to overpower them so they would retract the charges.  At the end of the scene, Samuel Parris asks Mary if John tried to make her sign the devilís book.  Many of the afflicted claimed the ďwitchesĒ tried to make them sign the devilís book.  In Titubaís actual confession, she claimed the devil forced her to sign his book, and it was then that she saw the names of townspeople.

[8]     The judges, Mary, and Abigail were all blinded by power and unknowingly allowed it to control them.  They were trapped in circumstances that they no longer could escape.  Mary wanted to confess and take back control of the situation but found that it was too late.  Abigail lost the one thing she wanted because her own plans went out of control.  Later in the film, after John refused to leave with her, she escaped from the village alone.  After finding out Abigail ran away, Judge Danforth realized that he had to dig himself out of the hole that he helped create.  He too tried to get control back by using John, but John refused to cooperate with him.  These people had the control in the beginning, but it literally explodes in their faces.  The witch trials took on a life of their own, and no one was in control anymore.  The fear and paranoia took control of the situation and created madness in the village.  No one would escape, not even those who helped spark the madness.

Works Cited

Berardinelli, James. (No date).  Newsgroup Reviews.  23 September 1999 <http://imdb.com/Reviews/64/6440>
 
 

Copyright (c) 1999 by Tina T. Kao, Undergraduate at Lehigh University.

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