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Film Review: Fahrenheit 451

Posted on the 21 February 2013 by Donnambr @_mrs_b

About Fahrenheit 451 (1966)Fahrenheit 451Ray Bradbury’s best-selling science fiction masterpiece about a future without books takes on a chillingly realistic dimension in this film classic directed by one of the most important screen innovators of all time, the late Francois Truffaut. Julie Christie stars in the challenging dual role of Oskar Werner’s pleasure-seeking wife, Linda, and his book-collecting mistress, Clarisse. Montag (Oskar Werner), a regimented fireman in charge of burning the forbidden volumes, meets a revolutionary school teacher who dares to read. Suddenly he finds himself a hunted fugitive, forced to choose not only between two women, but between personal safety and intellectual freedom. Truffaut’s first English language production is an eerie fable where mankind becomes the ultimate evil.

 

Starring: Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack, Anton Diffring, Jeremy Spenser

Directed by: Francois Truffaut

Runtime: 113 minutes

Studio: Universal studios

 

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Review: Fahrenheit 451 

I’d be lost without books to read but sadly many people would disagree with that sentiment. Francois Truffaut’s adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic 1953 dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451, offers a frightening future where books and reading are taboo and the firemen don’t fight fires, they start them! Bradbury’s novel is a stunningly good read so I was intrigued by how well Truffaut adapted it.

The story follows fireman Guy Montag (Oskar Werner) whose profession is not in fighting house fires but in burning books. Society decrees that books are an abomination and anyone caught reading them are severely punished, often having their homes burned to the ground. Montag is a dutiful citizen in a somewhat stale marriage with his wife Linda (Julie Christie) who is glued to their television screens and often overdoses on sleeping pills. One day Montag meets the free spirited Clarisse (Julie Christie) who makes him question his life and his profession. During an assignment, Montag surreptitiously bags a book out of curiosity and starts to read!

Montag’s life is turned upside down both by Clarisse and by his encounter with books. Prior to meeting Clarisse, Montag is content but not necessarily happy. Returning home from work he finds Linda has overdosed but, being the future, this isn’t cause for too much concern. One quick phone call later and two men have popped round to the Montag residence to bring Linda round. Montag’s wife is obsessed with her television screens and sits for hours absorbed by them, something of an impressive prophetic vision of the future here from Bradbury. Montag lives this life, works hard, puts up with his wife but after meeting Clarisse everything changes.

 

Clarisse is a school teacher who fears for her future given her somewhat unorthodox views. When she questions Montag’s work he starts to think about life differently. When the firemen head for their latest assignment at the home of an old woman they find her house is full of books. After the firemen pile the books up, the old lady stuns everyone by starting a fire herself and choosing to be burned alive with her books. Montag is badly affected by the incident and after stealing a book he starts to read at home, his relationship with Linda deteriorating and suspicion being aroused with his work colleagues. The question is where does Montag go from here? Turn his back on society for the love of the written word or bow to the suppression of convention.

 

Bradbury’s dystopian society is somewhat colourful in Truffaut’s adaptation and loses some of the essence of how dark the novel is. That said, this is still a solid interpretation of a much loved book. Werner is great in the lead as Montag and Christie does just as well juggling two roles. The film changes elements of the book with Bradbury’s novel remaining vastly superior. This should have been a lot darker in my opinion but it retains many elements of the book and for that reason alone is still worth watching.

Fahrenheit 451 is an important story and it transmits well to film. While this doesn’t have the dark feel of the dystopian novel it still retains the hallmarks of the book and for that reason alone is well worth your time.

Verdict: 4/5

(Film source: reviewer’s own copy)

Film Review: Fahrenheit 451 | Thank you for reading Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dave


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