I put off watching this for a long time, despite being one of only a handful of films standing between me and completing the Best Picture Oscar Winners list, and I think in large part it’s because I had it mentally linked with Becket, which is also about a conflict between a British monarch and man of God – not only could I not keep straight which was which historically, but I found Becket fairly boring and forgettable (as evidenced by the fact that I couldn’t remember which king/church guy was which). For anyone else similarly confused, Becket is Thomas Becket, friend and antagonist of King Henry II in the 12th century. A Man for All Seasons is Sir Thomas More, friend and antagonist of King Henry VIII in the 16th century. I guess with all the Thomases and Henrys, confusion is understandable.
Though this is based on a play and quite talky, it is far from boring (maybe I should try Becket again!). This is a fascinating period in history – the Tudors, especially Henry VIII were always volatile, and here he’s dying to divorce his first wife Catherine of Aragon, who has failed to give him a son, and marry Anne Boleyn. The Catholic Church refused to grant him a divorce, so he took advantage of the Reformation going on in Germany and declared the English church’s independence from Rome, with himself as head of the church. As Reformations go, the English one is, at this point anyway, pretty suspect.