Sunday, 18 October 2009

Film Review: FAHRENHEIT 451 (1966)

Director: François Truffaut
Running time: 112 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 12

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 18th October 2009.


I recently read the book by Ray Bradbury on which this film is based and so was quite interested to see it. I have seen it before, but a very long time ago. It’s quite different to the novel in that a relationship between Montag and Clarisse is created that never existed in the book. In fact, in the book, Clarisse and Montag only meet once, and Clarisse is much younger than portrayed here. I cannot decide whether this improves the story or not, let’s just say, the film takes a slightly different path to the novel.

Set in a future where books are seen as evil things that only give people ideas that they cannot live up to. Ignorance is bliss and so anyone found in possession of a book is arrested and all books are burned. Montag is a fireman, but not in the sense we would know a fireman today, his job is not to put fires out, but to start them, his job is to burn books. He does this with his colleagues, led by The Captain, in a uniform that bears the insignia ‘451’, the temperature, in Fahrenheit, at which paper ignites. After a chance meeting with Clarisse on his way home one evening, he is intrigued by her and her enquiring mind. Asking lots of questions about his work and how he feels about it gets him thinking. His wife, Linda, is not interested in such things, she seems happy to pop pills and watch TV all day. Eventually Montag takes and reads one of the books he is supposed to burn and this sets him on a path that will change his life forever.

I know this film was made in 1966 and it probably had a budget the size of a peanut, but I had the feeling the filmmaker was trying too hard to make it look ‘futuristic’. One thing they got right was the use of flat screen TV’s, but automatic sliding doors in the home and flying policemen were a bit beyond (for me). The other thing I found particularly wrong was that if books were banned, how did anybody learn to read? I have a pretty good imagination and I’m willing to forgive quite a lot in films if it helps the plot, but I’m afraid that I cannot forgive this. No explanation is given and I thing it’s a massive flaw in what is otherwise a pretty good film. Anyway, I digress, very good performances from Oskar Werner as Guy Montag, Julie Christie as Clarisse / Linda Montag and Cyril Cusack as The Captain, who had all the best lines, by the way. Over all, a pretty good film that lacked a bit of spark, it’s all a bit depressing and as I’ve said, there’s a bit of a super massive black hole in the plot. I would like to see how it would be dealt with by today’s filmmakers.

My score: 6/10

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