The Lady's Not For Burning (1974) DVD

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The Lady's Not For Burning (1974)


Joseph Hardy


Christopher Fry (play)


Richard Chamberlain, Eileen Atkins, Jacques Aubuchon
"The Lady's Not for Burning" is a world-weary play about the darkness of the human soul, and about the grace that sometimes shines through that darkness and blesses the ones it shines upon. The setting is a generic town in the generic middle ages. Jennet, a lovely woman of some property, is identified and hounded as a witch, the excuse being that the old rag-and-bones man has been found dead. The mayor of the town promises to hang her tomorrow, but just that night, he's busy with an important party. A mercenary, Thomas Mendip, who has seen too much of the world, demands to be hanged because it was he who killed the rag-and-bones man. The mayor refuses Thomas's request, and insists that Jennet must be hung on the following day. The discussion of who is to be hanged, and why, is so funny you can hurt your sides laughing, and so grim that you want to cry. The play is, throughout, a darkly humorous portrait of the human condition. The priest who coddles his violin as if it were his only child, is utterly adrift from the world. He is unable to perform any of his proper functions as a priest, or even, really, as a human. He provides an odd counterpoint to the life and death issues that Thomas and Jennet face. This may be Richard Chamberlain's best performance. It is intense and understated. His Thomas is grim in exactly the right ways, with his generosity and sweetness expressed in his despair, a neat trick, even for a good actor. I've seen Chamberlain in other productions, but none of those performances seem as nuanced and sharply defined as this one.

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