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Death of a Salesman

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Salesman The film version of John Patrick Shanley's award-winning play, Doubt, is being released in the United States on December 12th. The cast has received several nominations and awards already for American Critics Associations and the Golden Globes. This statement from the international Catholic film body SIGNIS, is offers a background to the film and its picture of the Church in 1964.

Doubt is being released at different times in the coming weeks, Australia on 15 January. However, it is not being released in the UK until 6 February and there is an embargo on any review in print (which does not apply on-line) until the week of its release in the UK.

Doubt is a film of strong Catholic interest.

It can be viewed in the light of the current Church experience of sexual abuse by clergy. However, this is not the central issue of the film. Doubt is a film about Church structures, hierarchy, the exercise of power and the primacy of discipline and order.

Set in the autumn of 1964 in the Bronx, New York, the film focuses on the suspicions of the primary school principal, Sister Aloysius, that the local priest and chaplain to the school, Fr Flynn, is taking an unhealthy interest in one of the students, aged twelve. There are some suggestions, several ambiguous clues, about what might have happened but the actual events remain unclear as the priest defends himself against the nun' strong intuition against him and the nun discusses the problem with the boy's mother. As the title of the film indicates, the drama leaves the truth unclear because it is the stances of the two characters in conflict, especially the determined nun and the truth struggle, the power struggle, the conscience struggle, that is the point of the film.

John Patrick Shanley (Oscar for the screenplay for Moonstruck and a prolific playwright) has adapted and opened out his Pulitzer-prize winning play for the screen and directed it himself. Shanley has indicated that he is not so much concerned with the issue of clerical abuse of children as of pitting two characters against each other to highlight the uncertainties of certainty and the nature of doubt. The drama is all the more powerful because of its naturalistic atmosphere, recreating the period and the life of the school, the convent and the rectory, and because of the powerful performances by Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Fr Flynn. Amy Adams gives contrasting support as the gentle and somewhat naïve Sister James who teaches the children. Viola Davis is the mother of the boy.

It can be noted that the nun on whom the film's Sister James was based and who taught Shanley at school in the Bronx has acted as a technical adviser. The film, by contrast with so many others, represents the details of Church and liturgical life accurately ­ although there is a breviary in



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