‘A Man for All Seasons’ is probably a film that I should like more than I actually do. It is often heralded as one of the great pieces of British Cinema and the fine acting and wordy script are both celebrated.
The film is the dramatisation of the story of Sir Thomas More, played by Paul Schofield. During the reign of Henry VIII (Robert Shaw), Sir Thomas More is appointed Lord Chancellor of England. More is a devout Catholic and puts the Church above all else. When the King decides that he wants to divorce, More refuses to dissolve the marriage and once the King has declared himself Head of the Church of England, More resigns from his post, and is later tried for treason.
It is a very serious film that looks at the issues of religion, marriage and loyalty, and although it’s set in the 16th Century, the topics that are up for discussion are still relevant today, which I think is what makes the film so undated. Another reason why it has aged well is that it is not a typical film of that decade. In the 1960s protagonists tended to be the anti-hero type (see Tom Jones), but yet Sir Thomas More is a man with extremely strong principles who will not bend them on a whim.
The acting is as serious as the film with a strong performance from Paul Schofield and respectable performances from the supporting characters. The script is equally as serious with long speeches and tight arguments being used by the characters, especially during the final section of the film.
I have no doubt that this is a clever and stately film full of fine acting and carefully studied dialogue. Although I am not over familiar with Tudor history, I am also led to believe that the film is supposed accurate, with no ‘Braveheart’ style tactics used to spice up history. My personal reason for not putting this higher is that I just do not find the film very entertaining, and although we can respect a film, without any form of wow-factor, it is difficult for me to perhaps place this film any higher, despite its obvious high level of technical quality.
By far the best part of the film is when we see Orson Welles playing Cardinal Wolsey (More’s predecessor). There is something quite delightful about his role and for a while he really makes the film animated. When he leaves the screen (and he does not have a particularly large role unfortunately) the film dies a little. The quality is still there, but it lacks that spark that could have made it a wonderful piece of cinema.