Friday, April 03, 2009


What Robert Bolt achieves by brilliant dialogues in A Man for All Seasons, Peter Glenville achieves by spinning a tale effortlessly on the screen and yet retaining all the dramatic elements in Becket. The beauty of the film lies in the mastery of dramatics that Glenville has, and to top it all he uses the finest actors he could’ve mustered, both from the British Isles (where else?), Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton. Completely dominated by acting from the two great actors, the film is a beautiful study of contrast across two personalities, two actors, two historical figures: Burton playing Henry II, O’Toole playing Thomas Becket.

The dialogue deliveries in mouths of both the actors who treated language like a goddess, and yet so differently, is a treat to watch and listen: to add are Burton’s habitual reserve and overstated pomp, and O’Toole’s itchiness, sparkling eyes, and a deep knowledge of the sap of life. Not paying too much allegiance to a thousand years old costumes or furniture, the film spares one from the boredness of a period piece, and only brings the contest between two sharp minds for power raw, in modern dialogue. Dialogue is crucial for the working of this film: without being too irreverent, it is yet not at all ancient, and does not even rely on completely rhetoric feats unlike Man for All Seasons; it whips you, swishes through you, and makes you wonder at the play of ego between men who still love each other so much and yet are mortal foes. If for nothing else, Becket should be watched for the performance of O’Toole himself: yet another virtuoso after Lawrence of Arabia! [How many is the man capable of?]