Fahrenheit 451 Reviews
In this version of the future, a totalitarian government has taken power instituting Ricardian measures to prevent the free expression and exchange of ideas that are deemed incompatible with the governmental philosophy and mandate. To enforce these edicts, firefighters have been repurposed from civil servants dedicated to saving lives and preserving property. Their authority extended far beyond any judicial or law enforcement representative we are accustomed to in this time and place. Instead, the firemen can enter any property suspected of harboring illicit material without a warrant or any form of legally constrained establish procedures. Then can forcibly enter a residence or place of business, search for contraband without a warrant and only a gossamer hint of suspicion and destroy by fire any material they deem to be inappropriate. When I first watched this movie, I was entering high school and barely a teenager. Now, after many decades experiencing life and trying to expand my understanding I once again revisited this story but in print on my tablet and with the 1966 film by re-watching a technically much improved digital copy. I was impressed with the details I had previously overlooked noticing how that collectively provided the film with previously unnoticed nuances ant a far greater depth regarding social commentary that my younger self could not readily discern. Guy Montag (Oskar Werner), was a respected member of society, a Fireman. His neighbor, Clarisse (Julie Christie), a young woman currently employed as a school teacher. Clarisse has placed her job in jeopardy because of her unorthodox ideology, a position not conducive to a peaceful existence. Despite the potential for criminal charges and social ostracism, Clarisse engages Montag in conversation asking whether he ever read any of the books he burns. Curiosity rises in him until he gives in and starts rescuing books from the pyre. At home Oskar fashions, a hiding place and further compelled by his curiosity he begins to read them. Among the first is 'Charles Dickens' David Copperfield,' officially condemned as dangerously social for promoting such concepts of transcending the caste of your birth, striving to elevate yourself beyond your station in life.
Oskar's curiosity is fanned to socially dangerous heights when he witnesses an openly defiant dedication to the socially forbidden act of self-martyrdom. During a routine call to a house of a known book collector, a quite middle-aged woman, she exhibited an exceptional dedication to her collections. When the flame throwers are lit, she preferred to being torched, experiencing an excruciatingly painful death rather than living without books and the encouragement of the free exchange of ideas through the medium of literature is a capital crime/ Montag had noticed this woman with his neighbor several times. The captain of the fire unit, (Cyril Cusack), engages Montag in a conversation concerning the danger of books with their potential to alter people into dangerous changes in their fundamental including self-awareness and establishing their ideas. In this society, independent though is the single most dangerous thing. After discharging the requisite duties of his shift, Montag returns home but is unable to enjoy even an iota of serenity.
His wife, Linda Montag (Julie Christie), like millions of other citizens, is completely enthralled by video program, 'The Family.' As an extraordinarily popular TV program, it has a considerable influence on the public's zeitgeist disproportionally affecting the lives of its fans. The format of the series was considered farfetched, a plot device greatly exaggerating some of the nascent impact television was capable of exerting on the viewers. It is a hybrid of formats completely unheard in 1953 when the source material novel was initially released. Is a viewer can garner sufficient popularity within the context of the series they are included in the 'family unit' gaining the highly coveted position of 'cousin.' One of the strongest reasons that I felt the time had arrived to revisit this pivotal example of cinematic artistry reviewed through the prism of current events and the intense domination of public opinion by the media. By incorporating aspects of such modern contrivances as multiplayer real life gaming juxtaposing them against reality shows that boast to be socially relevant 'experiments' guise as a game show. The series prophesied self-worth not merely influenced by anonymous public polling but entirely determined by it.
By having the same actress play, the same role might appear to be an unusual casting choice, but as the story unfolds, it becomes increasingly obvious to the discerning cinephile that this was a brilliant creative choice. It intensifies the effects of the juxtaposition between a woman enshrouded by an artificial, derived sense of self-worth with one that dares to define herself dangerously outside the proscribed boundaries imposed by the totalitarian society.
Montag was caught between these two superficially identical women, the product of the draconian mandates that created his job and another opposed to everything his position forces him to uphold. It is more than pieces of paper being set ablaze; they represent the cultural heritage of our species, the philosophical and intellectual evolution of humanity. The authorities were actively repressing an integral part of being part of society yet continue to express individuality. Traditionally book burning is considered one of the most heinous acts a dictatorial regime can manifest. In today's world, we are inexorably moving closer to people abdicating freedoms for the false sense of security. Politicians have obtained the highest possible positions on a platform of fear mongering, xenophobia and sublimated violence. In the fifties, the world was during McCarthyism, the total commitment to hating a targeted group on the insistence of a convincing spokesman. When the movie was produced, we were embroiled in a social upheaval founded on rebellion against the mandates of the government. Montag is trying to navigate the aftermath of such a struggle were the people lost
The angst experienced by Montag, the symbol of the oppressive authorities, as forbidden, thoughts begin to ruminate, making him doubt everything he thought he believed. Montag encounters a group of rebels, a literal grassroots movement. People have joined to preserve the literary heritage of humanity. Each person refers to him/herself as a book. This entails dedicating their lives to the preservation of a single tome placing this copy out of reach of even the most diligent search by the firemen, committing the literary work to memory. Risking a mandatory death sentence, these quiet revolutionaries willingly undertook the salvation of the very best creative minds produced by our species such as Shakespeare, Plato, and a myriad of names that would be lost to the ashes if the ignorant and oppressive regime were successful. A story once considered a prophetic warning decades ago has been imbued with a new, more immediate purpose. Demonstrating that the worst fears of our past have become the warning claxon for the current generation. Literature encourages unfettered thought reduced to anathema to their concept of the ideal society. Science is replaced with 'alternate facts' designerd to magnify fears and insecurities leveraging agendas that increase the wealth of the top 1% at the expense of the financial and physical health of a substantial portion of the population, this novel ever was truly about book burning but remains a cautionary tale of the abdication of fundamental aspects of humanity. This is an ideal time to revisit the films that helped shape not just your appreciation of cinema but contributed significantly to the formation of our adult perspective.
Fahrenheit 451 follows the story of a world where books are forbidden by law and firefighters are present to ensure they are perished via fire, and one firefighter starts to have second thoughts about his profession.
The first thing came into my mind when watching this film is the similarities this film has with A Clockwork Orange and Brazil, the similarities is found in its visual atmosphere, creating this dystopian environment, but what makes this film different from the two films I mentioned is its dystopia is found internally within its characters. The physical environment that these characters live in are actually close to home, aside from a couple of "improvements" like the wall screen. Truffaut immerses the audience in the environment and he does this by not letting the set and costume designs overwhelm the frame. It was also clever of Truffaut to not spend too much time on exploring the world and keep the film's attention towards the characters and their story.
The story of Fahrenheit 451 is driven by its message of valuing literature and the need for humans to express individualism in order for life to be fulfilling. The antagonists in this film believe that life should be equal for all and painful emotions should be repressed by society as it proves no purpose in progressing mankind forward. I may not be a book enthusiast as I personally feel that it affects my experience of enjoying a film, but I do value its existence and the impact it has had on so many people. Before cinema, television and theatre productions there were literature to escape us from our lives and allow us to learn new things that would shape our intellectual and emotional values. The government is not seen and is barely touched on in this film but Truffaut lets us feel their presence through Television programs, ensuring they are controlled and keeping rebellious act at bay.
The human story in this film is primarily driven to push the film's message but thankfully, it was still able to deliver a strong and entertaining tale delivered through its empathetic and accessible protagonist. There isn't much to Montag that isn't already expressed on the surface but it didn't matter to me as the journey he goes through intellectually and emotionally was fascinating. I did have some issues with certain fragments of the story, mainly the scenes with Clarisse and the school she worked in, as those scenes slowed down the story and lacked a strong pay-off.
The score in this film, by Bernard Herrmann, is certainly far from his best work but it does do a good enough job to amplify the film's messages and help shape the film's atmosphere and tone. My feelings towards Nicolas Roegâ??s photography were similar to Herrmann's score, it does a good job in keeping our attentions but it doesn't amount to anything memorable or spectacular.
The acting in this film was strong but nothing worth of high praise. Oskar Werner as our protagonist, Guy Montag, did a good job playing a man who is conflicted about his profession and has started a powerful relationship with literature. Julie Christie played two different roles in this film, giving each one a different flavour in order to have them distinguishable but the intensity she delivers on both is similar. Cyril Cusack as The Captain of Fahrenheit 451 was entertaining to watch, it was so fun to watch him spill out his personal values of literature and make them feel real; there were moments where I actually felt physical angered because of the despicable things he said.
Fahrenheit 451 is certainly one of the director's stronger efforts. After seeing this, it makes me feel guilty that I don't read enough, making me feel intellectually hollow.