The Scarlet Letter


Time Out says

New England, the 17th century, when everyone spake in 'thees' and 'thous'. Independent Hester Prynne (Moore) arrives from England to begin a new life in a puritanical community entrenched on the beautiful coastline. Her husband (Duvall) is to follow her. If only he knew what lay ahead. For less than seven seconds elapse between Hester learning of her husband's alleged death at the hands of Indians, and her jumping into the grain with the estimable Rev Dimmesdale (Oldman). The result's a baby girl, followed by imprisonment and ostracism for Hester, who's eventually forced by her elders to wear a scarlet 'A' and divulge the name of 'the fornicator'. Those acquainted with Hawthorne's novel, from which Joffé's long, cumbersome, at times unintentionally Python-esque, period saga was 'freely adapted', may think they know the outcome. They'd be wrong, because the word 'freely' in the opening credits should have read 'ever so freely'. Not only does the film bear little resemblance to the source novel, but it's cluttered with ridiculous symbolism (a Dayglo bird signposts Hester's way, Duvall dances around with a dead deer on his head) and filtered through a horrid chocolate-ad score.


Release details

135 mins

Cast and crew

Roland Joffé
Douglas Day Stewart
Demi Moore
Robert Duvall
Gary Oldman
Edward Hardwicke
Lisa Jolliff-Andoh
Robert Prosky
Roy Dotrice
Joan Plowright
Tim Woodward
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