For some reason, I missed this film despite years of student film clubs and art house cinema visits and saw it for the first time, by chance, dubbed on German TV. In a time when possibly the most influential "book" for humankind is Facebook, it's a particularly interesting film to watch.
The story, following the novel by Ray Bradbury, is set in a future where books are banned and firemen are firestarters, sent to seek out and destroy subversive literature - which is any book with words. The fireman Montag is intrigued by a young woman teacher who speaks to him on the monorail, questioning his work and its usefulness. He begins to do the forbidden - read a book - and is torn between his conformist job and "Stepford" wife, and the free and forbidden, symbolised by the young teacher, Clarisse.
The film is a treat to watch. The society of the future, an emotional desert where the biggest decisions are who should sit next to who on a forerunner of something like Celebrity Dinner, is beautifully portrayed. The style and design are 60s through and through - the Avengers on a bit of a bad trip. The scenes of books burning, with all those amazing early Penguin covers, are quite stunning.
Finally, the last scene is breathtaking. Everything - the message of hope, the snow, the "book people" and the haunting music score come together to create a magic piece of cinema.
I haven't seen this film for many years, but it is a very memorable one indeed. It is often forgotten about when the great SF movies are talked about or listed.
Sadly the film remains very pertinent to the age we live in with attempts at censureship still a relevant issue even in our so called democratic societies.
One does get the feeling that we won't have to particularly worry about the powers that be burning books, but be more worried at the ever increasing general "apathy" of the population and the psychological need to look for simple (absolute)answers to fill the void and uncertainty of the world.
Rarely do film adaptations exceed the quality of the book but this by Francois Truffaut does ! The reasons are many fold. The casting is excellent. Some might consider Oscar Werner a little wooden but he underplays Montag in a slightly 'child like' way, which emphasises his growing awareness and affinity for books. Julie Christie has the uneviable task of playing both the main female characters including Montag's air head/drugged up/reality tv obsessed wife. Montag's burning of the marital bed is deeply symbolic after his wife betrays him to the authorities. He chooses his love of books over everything in this dystopian vision of the future, akin to the world of 1984. Clever use of literary greats including Dickens and spoken opening titles elevate this film above many films of this period. So too does the original score by the great Bernard Hermann, who composed the music while going through divorce. There are some very moving pieces of music throughout and the final snowy, woodland scenes with the 'book people' all wandering around reciting their memorised books is a great ending to a great film ! Unlike 1984 there is the final upbeat message that 'freedom' (in this case to read) survives ! A must see.
Set in the future, Fahrenheit 451 depicts a society where books have been banned, where feelings have been repressed, where emotions have been stripped away, where being different is a crime.
The film has a washed out flat look to it which reflects its subject matter. The indigenous 1960's fashions and designs look suitably futuristic.
There are some nice touches. Montag 'reads' a comic strip whose text has been removed; the firemen slide up the pole at the fire station; there are no on screen opening credits, instead they are declaimed vocally.
The most disturbing parts of the film for me are the burning of books, with its obvious parallels to the Nazi regime. The most lyrical section is the final one where the book people are memorising book texts.
The performances reflect the subject matter and style of the film, that is they are controlled and muted, though Cyril Cusack brings an energy to his role in keeping with his role as the leading fireman. Julie Christie is, as always, luminous and very watchable. Strangely, Anton Diffring's German accent is dubbed. I guess the director did not want two actors with German accents (the other being Oskar Werner).
There is a sadness which pervades the film, a melancholy, a quiet desperation and this is underlined by Bernard Herrmann's superb music, which lifts the film onto a higher plane, and qualifies it for a 4-star, rather than a 3-star rating.
Beautifully acted movie with subtle and understated artistic (French) direction that provides an almost errie mood of a world that selects and emphasises the current social culture (1960s) and past historical occurrences (book burning) that seems to ultimately point to a warning that if some current trends are not held in check then a general populace labotamy will take place. This is indicative of some films and TV (The Prisoner)of the sixties where the stale conservatism of the fifties and prior give way to new liberal freedom of thought and action, yet the conservative shadow still threatens to stifle true human freedom. So the film works on two levels, the 'literal' almost impossible senario of having nothing to read and the subtext just mentioned. As in Orwell's "1984" the paranoia that something else outside us has control of our lives, (including TV) that is unnatural and cold and cruel, and here has the disguise of kindness, freedom and welfare. There is also the idea of being asleep to our captivity and those who awaken and rebel suffer retribution and isolation as well as the struggle to find a cure in oneself and a more suitable environment to live.
Oskar Werner stars as Montag, an unhappy man living in a monotonous futuristic society. Books are illegal, spy screens are on every wall, emotions are out, and people take drugs to endure their dull lives. Montag is a fireman whose job it is to find hidden books, burn them, and arrest the owners. One day he becomes curious about these books and sneaks a copy of David Copperfield home. His spaced-out wife (Julie Christie) reports him to the authorities and he must run for his life. He runs to a kindred spirt (also played by Christie) who is a book-lover. Oskar Werner is wonderful as the sensitive, confused fireman who longs to really connect with people, ideas, and feelings. Christie shines as both the glamorous, bored housewife and the brave teacher who dares to read. The film's view of the future is frightening and sad, but the ending is hopeful and quite touching. Heartily recommended.
Francois Truffaut's adaptation of Ray Bradbury's novel (and his first film in English) garnered some very lukewarm reviews on first release. However some critics seemed to completely miss the point when they criticised the dialog as stilted and the performances wooden (laying the blame at the door of the French director) - the story concerns a society in which the written word (and any articulation of genuine emotion) has been banned, so it's only to be expected that the characters are emotionally stunted and speak in banalities. There's much to admire here, not the least being future director Nic Roeg's bold cinematography (you'll have to forgive the hideous 60's decor though). The ending (which I won't give away) is also pure Truffaut - sad, wistful, optimistic and very cinematic. The DVD itself is excellent - besides anamorphic presentation of the film itself, there are features on the making of the film, the music, the book and an excellent photo' gallery with many delightful shots from the set. Finally a word of warning; alas it would not be possible to say that (to paraphrase) "no books were harmed in the making of this film". For Penguin book lovers the sight of some genuine 60's classic Penguins going up in smoke may send them screaming from their home theatres.