Francois Truffaut's 'Fahrenheit 451' (1966)

Fri Mar 04, 2005 12:57 am

Highly recommended. Noted, legendary French director Francois Truffaut did a masterful job bringing Ray Bradbury's novel to the screen. 'Fahrenheit 451' was way ahead of its time. Bradbury wrote of, and Turffaut brought to life a world that is haunting, one that arguably exists today.

The disturbing thing about both Ray Bradbury's book and Truffaut's film is that, unlike many other books and films that deal with the distant future, "Fahrenheit 451" (written in 1953) hasn't been proved wrong simply by time itself. Not at all. Actually, what is shocking to realize is that we've come quite close (and in the opinion of some, have already arrived) to the society Bradbury writes about. Perhaps books haven't been banned yet, but it is indeed the entertainment industry that controls people's minds, the political correctness has reached ridiculous levels, there are ads everywhere and now we even have Segways so that we don't have to walk anywhere... And, of course, we can get a thousand page long classics shortened to a hundred pages - or, better yet, simply watch the movie.

'Fahrenheit 451' (1966)
Directed by Francois Truffaut
Starring Oscar Werner & Julie Christie

This is an engrossing futuristic tale of a society where all printed material is banned. In this country of the future, officials believe that people who read and are able to think for themselves are a threat to the nation where individualism is strongly discouraged. The inhabitants of this society all seem to be suffering from sensory deprivation and their only link to news and entertainment is a large television screen on the wall where sublime and mind numbing broadcasts are continually transmitted to the "family". All of the people are members of The Family. Even though they aren't forced to watch the telecasts, they all do.

It is also a society where drugs are dispensed by the government in order to further pacify the citizens. Mop up squads roam the streets, shaving the heads of individuals whose hair they consider to be too long and to be the trait of a non-conformist.

It is the job of firemen to hunt down subversives and burn the caches of books they've secreted away. This movie was made long before political correctness raised its ugly head and demanded they be referred to as firefighters. If you think about it, the excesses of political correctness is one of the things this movie may be warning us about. Oskar Werner plays Montag, a devoted fireman, who meets a young woman (Clarisse) who reminds him of a thinking version of his wife Linda. Guy Montag is a book-burning fireman undergoing a crisis of faith. His wife spends all day with her television "family," imploring Montag to work harder so that they can afford a fourth TV wall.

Their dull, empty life sharply contrasts with that of his next-door neighbor Clarisse, a young girl thrilled by the ideas in books, and more interested in what she can see in the world around her than in the mindless chatter of the tube. When Clarisse disappears mysteriously, Montag is moved to make some changes, and starts hiding books in his home. Eventually, his wife turns him in, and he must answer the call to burn his secret cache of books. After fleeing to avoid arrest, Montag winds up joining an outlaw band of scholars who keep the contents of books in their heads, waiting for the time society will once again need the wisdom of literature.

When Montag is asked by Clarisse what his wife is like, he answers, "Very much like you." This isn't surprising since the parts of Linda and Clarisse are both played by Julie Christie.

Cyril Cusack is excellent as the Captain who has the personality of an eccentric, caring father figure but who occasionally turns into a tough, single-minded disciplinarian.

Fabian, played by Anton Diffring, is a fireman who doesn't have much use for Montag and is out to get him whenever he can.

One thing worth noting in this adaptation of the Ray Bradbury novel is that the opening credits are spoken, not written. There is nothing to read throughout the film except for pages of books people are reading and books and covers while they are being burned. Even the newspaper Montag picks up is all pictures. You get to read a movie title when the film ends with "The End".

The title of the movie comes from, as Montag puts it in one scene, "Fahrenheit four five one is the temperature at which book paper catches fire and starts to burn."
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RE: Francois Truffaut's 'Fahrenheit 451' (1966)

Fri Mar 04, 2005 1:01 am

One little inside joke that I enjoyed is toward the end when a teenager tells Montag that he is ay Bradbury's "Martian Chronicals." I thought it was a clever way of injecting the author of the book the movie was based on into the actual world of the movie.
A little less Hooah, and a little more Dooah.

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