Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 345: Fahrenheit 451 (1966) - Rank 3.5/5


One of Bradbury's most renowned books received a decent screen adaptation thanks to the expertise of Francois Truffaut. For those unfamiliar with the plot, the story is set in a dystopian future where the printed word is outlawed. Guy Montag, the main protagonist, is a professional bookburner - an avocation generated by an amalgamation of Cold War fears as well as references to the Third Reich it seems. Montag decides to indulge in reading when he acquires a text during a routine burning and soon he finds his mindset shifting as the power of reading influences his mind. The story's a solid one and Truffaut's visual sense creates a bleak but visually distinct look for the future (akin to the world created in "A Clockwork Orange"). The film's main drawback is the performance by Oskar Werner as Guy Montag, a role that he woefully underplays. I'm aware that in this fictitious future that he is a mere cog, regulated by perscriptions, and a muting of emotions is to be expected, but Werner is damn near comatose for most of the film (a surprising outcome since he'd collaborated with Truffaut before). At least his performance does not detract from the story's uplifting message.

Watch the Trailer

1 comment:

  1. I devoured Bradbury's novel in a single setting back in high school--it was one of those seminal moments in my life. When I finally saw this film version last year on DVD, I found it lacked the urgency and soul of the source material. For one, they gutted the dynamics between Guy and his neighbors. We still see him gradually come to be interested in books, but it lacks the surreptitious seduction that made the literary version so captivating.

    Also, it is my understanding that Bradbury himself advised Truffaut to eliminate the backstory of the country being at war, and to omit the mechanical tracking dog at the end. The latter may have been a wise choice, given the limitations of filmmaking at the time, but I found the absence of the war context hurt the film.

    While reading the novel, it added to my escalating sense of frustration that these people were contented to remain oblivious to something as dire as a war, treating it at best like reality TV. Without that, these characters are simply vapid couch potatoes. Just as mindless, yes, but far less sinister.

    I did, however, admire the spoken credits. Very clever and jarring, and Julie Christie is captivating in her dual roles. And I love the editing of the scene at the park, where half the screen goes black for moment...tensions rise...and then the story goes on, and you exhale.