George Orwell wrote the prophetic words "Freedom is the right to say two plus two equals four" in his novel 1984, a right denied to the people by the fictional government of his book. Many readers drew parallels between the Ingsoc dominated Oceania to Soviet Russia, an analog that remained true until the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. Today, however, the right to state a simple truth is also threatened and a number of precepts from 1984 appear to apply. Consider "Who controls the past controls the future", the function of the Ministry of Truth where the main protagonist Winston Smith works editing the documented past to support the will of the government in the name of democracy and freedom. Ring any bells?
This movie version (and there've been a few) is in my opinion the most complete version painting an horrific picture of an oppressed distrusted people dominated by a brutal self-serving government. Richard Burton in his last role portrays an Ingsoc inner-party member, the inside man to John Hurt's "Winston Smith". Both excel in their roles, they're believable, real, and in Burton's case truly terrifying. Suzanna Hamilton plays the part of Julia, Winston's lover and ultimately the tool of his demise. There are some specifically disturbing scenes in this portrayal, notably the torture of Winston Smith - if ever John Hurt deserved an Oscar, it should have been for 1984.
The movie is one of those pictures that you just can't stop, but are unsure that you can bear to see what happens next. The performances were stunning, the production dark and consistent, the movie a dreadful vision of what could have been, and as every right we enjoy is eroded, could still be.
1984 still stands as important literature for the 21st century and this movie version stands as the definitive version, standing as both an education and a warning.
And remember, if there is hope, it lies with the proles, the real people.