Item Description
DVD information:
Fahrenheit 451 (1966) DVD Francois Truffaut (Sci-Fi)
François Truffaut
Ray Bradbury (novel) and
Jean-Louis Richard (screenplay)
Sci-Fi / Drama
    Oskar Werner   
...     Guy Montag
    Julie Christie   
...     Clarisse / Linda Montag
    Cyril Cusack   
...     The Captain
    Anton Diffring   
...     Fabian / Headmistress
    Jeremy Spenser   
...     Man with the Apple
    Bee Duffell   
...     Book Lady
    Alex Scott   
...     Book Person: 'The Life of Henry
    Noel Davis   
...     Cousin Midge, TV Personality
Additional Details:
112 min
To read or not to read? That is the question answered with a
thundering "yes" by French filmmaker Francois Truffaut (1932-1984)
in his tenth movie (of 26).
"Fahrenheit 451" is the temperature at which paper burns.
(Note: I have not tried to verify this.) In the source-novel by Ray
Bradbury, a tale with a rock-bottom use of sci-fi gadgetry, we
find, in a not-too-distant time, an Un-Brave New World in which all
printed matter is outlawed. Books --those creators of thinking,
questioning, individualism --are banned as disturbers of a "peace"
which is maintained by the homogenizing and dumbing humans through
a stupid kind of TV as well as various pills.
Firemen do not extinguish fires any more but now,
paramilitary firemen snuff out "differences" in people by sniffing
out hidden volumes and burning them. Fireman Montag (Oskar Werner)
about to be promoted by his Captain (Cyric Cusack), betrays the
Establishment by salvaging some books and reading them. (The secret
readings by Montag are immensely touching.)
He is denounced by his homogenized, passive "Wall-TV" watcher
wife Linda (Julie Christie). (Shades of Hitlerjugend kids
denouncing their families!) Montag then joins non-conformist,
free-spirit Clarisse (also played by Julie Christie) to become a
member of the "book people" underground.
The novel was such a natural for movie-adaptation that
filmgoers expected a glorious array of sci-fi visuals. Sorry, no
major special effects. Truffaut's only English film is in color but
is not "colorful," nor does it hit you with futuristic gimmickry.
The novel did stress the political side of things. The movie
emphasizes a more general social dystopia. Its outer trappings were
realities: the aseptic suburbia of Roehampton, England; the
American TV wall-screen experiments with lasers; the monorail in
service near Orleans (France); the "flying men," etc.
Note the contrast between the bucolic landscape and the
glossy, toy-like fire-engines. Or the oppressive schoolhouse
corridors, illogically drab until you realize that schools are made
obsolete by "the family" on the wall screen and by other variants
of Big Brother.
The intellectual approach is true in content and structure,
at the expense of expected theatrics. There is no nice, lovey
affair between Montag and Clarisse. Fiendish Fellow Fireman Fabian
(Anton Diffring) does not denounce Montag. There are no Big Chases
or Big speeches. It's all hard colors and limited feelings, just
right for an op-pop society of sleepwalkers. Truffaut is not so
simple-minded as to confront the myth of technocracy with the myth
of The Good Reader. Instead, he shows the "post-print culture" of
McLuhanism ("the medium is the message") that can turn humans into
passive cattle. "We've got to be alike" says the Captain. But
"alike" and "alive" are opposites. He adds: " The only way to be
happy is for all of use to be made equal." It is that "made" that
In the late 1950s-early 1960s, Truffaut, along with Godard,
Chabrol, Resnais and others ushered in The French New Wave,
arguably the most important "movement" (in the most general and
flexible way) in the history of film. Of all the movie-makers in
that group and probably in all film history, Truffaut was the most
loved one, the way Cary Grant was among actors. When Truffaut died
of a brain tumor at age 52 all of France went into mourning.
Facile effects are avoided. Even though Truffaut admired,
above all filmmakers, Alfred Hitchcock and Jean Renoir, there is
just one scene of Hitchcockian suspense (Montag in the Captain's
office.) We find no overt Renoiresque humanism. In the final shots,
the people become major books pace the countryside as they memorize
their respective texts. In the French language those characters are
called "hommes livres" (book people) which also sounds like "homes
libres" (free people). They are not romantic outlaws but members of
a Resistance who have traded the slavery of a Benevolent State of
zombies for an admirable enslavement to books-- so that when true
freedom, that of the presses, may return some day.
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