13 March 2013

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
  • Director: Francois Truffault
  • Based on Book: by Ray Bradbury
  • Cast: Julie Christie, Oskar Werner, Cyril Cusack, Anton Diffring, Bee Duffell
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Julie Christie: Doctor Zhivago, Darling, Far From the Madding Crowd, The Go Between, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Finding Neverland, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Hamlet, Heaven Can Wait, Petulia, Don’t Look Now, Heat and Dust, Afterglow
    • Oskar Werner: Ship of Fools, Jules and Jim, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Voyage of the Damned
    • Cyril Cusack: Harold and Maude, My Left Foot, As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors, King Lear, The Taming of a Shrew, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
  • Why bought: One of my all-time favorites
  • Seen: three times. First time in the 60’s. Second time: Between then and now. This time: September 23, 2012 with friend YW in our read-book-watch movie club

This is one of the handful of movies that gripped me deeply when I first saw it as a teenager. Oddly I don’t remember my reaction when I saw it the second time but I was a bit nervous before watching it this time.  Teenage favorites tend to be corny when watched some forty-five years later.
Fahrenheit 451 is not corny.  It is actually somewhat of a masterpiece.  And unfortunately not more sci-fi than it was back then.  Books are still being burned.  People are still combating oppression by withdrawing (don’t we all). Dozens, hundreds of movies have since been made on the same theme.
In some ways, though not corny, F451 is very 60’s. Back then it felt so futuristic with its suspended elevated commuter train, its wall TV, its ear thingies. All of that has happened and a zillion other things but the movie is still powerful and not just as an oh-look-he-predicted-the-technology-stuff-and zombifying-TV-pills-right film.
They burn books. It hurts to see. But it’s not really just the story, it’s what Truffault did with it. The European setting was very foreign and futuristic to me in the 60’s. Less so now that I’ve lived in Europe for nearly forty years.  YW, who is Swedish, didn’t have any of that feeling but for me it’s still there.
The acting. Oskar Werner is perfect. Of course his German accent adds to his Europeanness as does the British English of all the rest. Julie Christie gets it just right, as always, as both Linda and Clarisse.
The color plays a role of its own. The rich vivid red against the concrete gray was a smart move.
The scene of memorizers of books wandering back and forth in the snow, quoting their classics, somehow makes everything hopeful again.  And of course one asks oneself, “Which book would I choose?” And my answer is, “Oh why do my favorites have to be all seven Harry Potter books and the Complete Plays of Shakespeare?”
5 * of 5.

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