Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Dystopiarama! 2 - Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

Fahrenheit 451 is a 1966 film based on Ray Bradburys 1953 dystopian sci-fi novel of the same name.

The film, although not a direct translation of the book, manages to take the storyline as a whole and improve on it in some places.
One particularly clever bit of cinematography is that at no point during the film, other than the occasional glimpses of books found by the firemen, do you see anything in written form, even the films titles and credits are spoken by an off screen narrator, and on the odd occasion where any of the characters read from books, they always speak the words out loud.

Set in an unspecified future time (which looks remarkably like what people in the 60s view of what the world would look like in the 21st century, with futuristic monorail trains being there alongside big clunky 60s pieces of electronic equipment) the film stars German actor Oskar Werner in the role of Guy Montag, a "Fireman" who unlike the fire fighters (theres no political correctness in this future time either...thank fuck) of today, actually start fires rather than put them out.
You see, in this bizarre pseudo futuristic world of tomorrow, all books and forms of written communication have been outlawed by a oppressive government, simply because they can be used to promote ideas about rebellion or contain information which in contrary to the carefully crafted propaganda and revisionist history they allow.
For entertainment, the state actively encourages people to watch mind numbingly banal television programs, inviting friends round to watch TV together, not only that but the people are allowed access to a staggering array of harmful recreational drugs, many of which they don't even know the names for, simply referring to them by the colour the tablets are.

Guy is quite happy in his job, and his station master has him tipped for promotion because he has been doing such a good job in burning books and rooting out people who collect and preserve illegal libraries, however all this contentedness gets turned on its head when one day whilst riding the train home from work he strikes up a conversation with Clarisse, a young woman who bears a striking resemblance to his wife (Julie Christie in a dual role), except that unlike his wife, Clarisse actually has the zest of life about her, where his wife is content to just laze around their home all day watching TV and taking various drugs.
After a few conversations with her, Clarisse asks Guy about his opinion on books, which at first he dismisses as being "just so much rubbish that we don't need any more", but he soon becomes curious, and from that point on he finds himself keeping one or two books whenever he finds any while he is at work, but he finally comes to love the written word when he sees a woman immolate herself after he and his fire crew raid her home and find it packed to the rafters with illegal reading materials, thus he begins to lose interest in his boring life and begins expanding his mind by reading various pieces of philosophy, poetry and fiction.

As I said, the film is very cleverly made, and uses familiar cinematic techniques in new and bizarre ways, such as rewinding the film so the firemen slide UP the fireman's pole instead of down it, which would normally look silly but for some reason in this film it works so well with the bizarre and surreal world the film creates.

They would never be able to make a film like this now, simply because it would quickly degenerate into a series of CGI explosions and hidden messages about terrorism, and Guy Montag, would be some sort of confused emo-esque character with some defining element of tragedy tacked into his back story, rather than the quiet unassuming man he is as played by Werner.

This is a very, very good film which contains a lot of commentary which is still relevant today about such matters as the "dumbing down" of western culture, the almost militant rise of anti-intellectualism in recent years and the problems with simply obeying what someone else says without question.

No comments:

Post a Comment