Fahrenheit 451 Reviews
By The Outsider "Muso" (London) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Fahrenheit 451 [DVD]  (DVD)
The film version of Ray Bradbury's classic sci-fi is nearly as good as the book, thanks to Francois Truffaut and a host of helpers. The look of the film is a blend of Truffaut and Nic Roeg (who shot it), the sound track by the incomparable Bernard Hermann, and a beautiful, true to the novel (mainly) script.
The odd thing - which results in a star removed - is moving the setting out of the USA into a Europe that doesn't exist. This is a clear McCarthy era paranoia tale, and without this, the film seems even weirder. Casting the German Oskar Werner is just plain bizarre. He is blank, speaks with a thick German accent while everyone else is RADA English, don't you know chaps. Montag is pretty hard to fathom as a character, but multiply this times ten in this version. I do love Julie Christies dual role as Montag's wife (now called Linda, not Mildred, for some strange reason) and his literate future girlfriend Clarisse.
All that said, this film is still a treat and a unique one at that. You will never see another one like it - it is like a film made by aliens
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 Roeg'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.
An interesting interpretation of an interesting book - it is probably recommended for a one of viewing although the ending may be unsatisfying to some (although relatively true to the original book).
Since I haven't read the book, my first experience of Fahrenheit 451 was this classic dystopian film directed by François Truffaut. The film depicts a futuristic society run by a totalitarian government in which books have been outlawed and the function of firemen have been changed from preventing fires to locating and burning books by any means necessary. Citizens are controlled by a vast range of medications and the only form of legal entertainment are mind-numbing interactive TV-shows that are hauntingly similar to pedagogical programs for small children. After five years of burning books in his work as a fireman, Montag played by Oskar Werner starts to grow tired of his emotionless wife, Linda played by Julie Christie whose only interest seems to be an interactive Tv-show called, The Family in which all the actors refer to their viewers as cousins. After meeting a young schoolteacher who asks him if he ever reads the books he burn, Montag decides to secretely read one, an experience which opens him up to a new way of thinking.
This film looks a little dated with its use of technicolor, but the message is both relevant and timeless. With a small group of interesting characters, the film presents a broad selection of personalities and opinions that might exist in this kind of society, some of the characters are shown to be beyond rescue, but some like the main-character, Montag really drove me into caring, as he slowly embarks on his quest for knowledge. Dystopian films seldom feel this down to earth and few scenarios feels as realistic as this one, seeing how we already have been through periods where knowledge and history were suppressed. I don't know if the film is a good adaption of the book, but it's definitely worth watching