The classic science fiction novel by Ray Bradbury was a curious choice for one of the leading directors of the French New Wave, François Truffaut. But from the opening credits onward (spoken, not written on screen), Truffaut takes Bradbury's fascinating premise and makes it his own. The futuristic society depicted in Fahrenheit 451
is a culture without books. Firemen still race around in red trucks and wear helmets, but their job is to start fires: they ferret out forbidden stashes of books, douse them with petrol and make public bonfires. Oskar Werner, the star of Truffaut's Jules and Jim
, plays a fireman named Montag, whose exposure to David Copperfield
wakens an instinct towards reading and individual thought. (That's why books are banned--they give people too many ideas.) In an intriguing casting flourish, Julie Christie plays two roles: Montag's bored, drugged-up wife and the woman who helps kindle the spark of rebellion. The great Bernard Herrmann wrote the hard-driving music; Nicolas Roeg provided the cinematography. Fahrenheit 451
received a cool critical reception and has never quite been accepted by Truffaut fans or sci-fi buffs. Its deliberately listless manner has always been a problem, although that is part of its point; the lack of reading has made people dry and empty. If the movie is a bit stiff (Truffaut did not speak English well and never tried another project in English), it nevertheless is full of intriguing touches, and the ending is lyrical and haunting. --Robert Horton, Amazon.com
UK Universal Region 2 PAL, released in 2003. Bonus features: The Novel (A Discussion with author Ray Bradbury), Making of 'Fahrenheit 451', Feature Commentary with Julie Christie, The Music of 'Fahrenheit 451', The Original Title Sequence of Feature, Production Photographs.
From back cover: "Ray 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."