Title: Fahrenheit 451
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi
Director: François Truffaut
Music: Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography: Nicolas Roeg
Truffaut’s first colour film and his one and only UK venture, a significant fiasco at its release and also soured by the severe feud between Truffaut and the leading man Oskar Werner. Nevertheless, 48 years later, this dystopia drama continues glistening with its profound social message of a near future where books are banned from its ostensibly harmonious but substantially benumbing and oppressive society, adapted from USA Sci-Fi writer Ray Bradbury’s eponymous novel. Notably, its futuristic mise-en-scène and Nicolas Roeg’s phenomenal cinematography are endurable by the time, may even surpass the film itself.
In a world the duty of firemen has delegated from putting out fire to burn books, Guy Montag (Werner) is a promising fireman waiting for a promotion, yet after he meets his nonconformist neighbour Clarisse (Christie), who seems to be a rebel against the claustrophobic atmosphere. Her ideology influences Guy bit by bit until he is intrigued to the items which he demolishes on a daily basis and clashes with his more orthodox wife Linda (Christie again), sooner or later, he has to face a fatal blow of betrayal and transforms him as a “bookman”, the most innovative notion under this repressive law to thwart the extinction of great books, each individual memorises one of his or her favourite books, and names oneself as the title of the book, thus they become “bookmen”, living in the wilderness but legally, and pass on their books to the next generation, so books are not needed in their physical form, until one day, this fatuous ban is lifted. Such a beautiful concept (despite how demanding it is), instead of resorting to revolutionised violence against the authority, the intellectual ones contend with wisdom and perseverance, which could only happen in a Utopian realm.
By and large, acting is not the biggest merit in this film, Werner’s Guy Montag is blasé, civilised but simmers with defiance, yet he is no way Briton, thanks to the fact future will also be unbeknownst to us, it doesn’t seem to be too out-of-place. Julie Christie is as beautiful as always in her duo roles, with long tresses, she is Linda, a housewife indulges in the vapidness of her life and too blind to stand behind her husband, and wearing a clean short-cut, she is the dauntless Clarisse, fighting with a cause. Cyril Cusack is the authoritarian firemen squad captain, whose speech of why books should be all eliminated even temporarily wins me over since he is so persuasive in singling out the flaws in literature, but is also farcically written off with torrid perfunctoriness.
As a Truffaut’s ambitious project, the film does fully exhibit an omnipresent sense of neurosis, a world is restless under its placid surface, its visual patterns are distinctively impactful, the hanging shuttle trains, the simplistic designed fire engine, the flaring shots of books in the inferno, page by page, it is enthralling to deposit our curiosity into this cathartic ride with Guy, to revive the sensation of our own existence, and its ending does proffer a feel-good superiority towards the wacky idiocy of the stifling sameness. Also it is funny to envision a remake in the digital era, how Amazon, Kindle, iTunes Store and other online stores can be clamped down into extinction? Is it an onerous stretch for our valiant firemen?