Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
The theme is all too familiar, that being the State attempting to control the people through pervasive means without respect to privacy. Some citizens resist this form of dictatorship, yet their brothers and sisters will be compelled to turn them in. The subtlety that fuels this is something that can be missed, with the overshadowing of the fireman's hunt. There is a moment where the chief tells Montag that it was the people who wanted books to be burned, not the State. The State is only complying with this, albeit in a single-minded fashion. But why would the people want books to be burned?
This story was written in the 1950's and the movie made in 1966, but the commentary it makes about society is still quite poignant today. In Bradbury's world, people crave to be the same and enshrouded in perpetual happiness. The trouble with books is that they make people unhappy. Books tell of imaginary lives that one can't ever live. They postulate many philosophies that clash with one another. They breed strife, disorder, disharmony, and unhappiness. So, they must be dispensed with.
Today, our society is so inundated with over-stimulation from so many different sources simultaneously. People are so accustomed to getting their information quickly and in short bursts (e.g. Twitter's 160 character messages). Movies, sitcoms, Internet videos, video games, and social networking dominate the media landscape, so who wants to be bothered with reading books? With so many distractions, there is so little time to really live life. To really get to know people, instead of talking through vague and diffused interactions via emotionless message segments. Also, we are fast becoming an over medicated society. The pharmaceutical industry is more profitable than ever before. Are you depressed? There's a pill for that. Want to lose weight? There's a pill for that. How aptly the book and movie forecasts what is to come.
"Fahrenheit 451" touches on so many aspects to issues in society that merit attention, where the burning of books is almost an incidental side effect. This was Truffaut's only English speaking film and he was not pleased with how the dialog and actor interactions turned out. He called them "flat." So this wasn't his directorial intent, yet what a stroke of luck, as this effect really captures how people have become mostly flat. I got a much more humanized feeling from the characters who read and become books in this movie. At first I felt Julie Christie's performance wasn't distinctive enough between the two characters (Linda and Clarisse), yet in retrospect I think this kind of works. Although Clarisse is a bit of a rebel and craving to be different, she is also a product of society and has a bit of blandness or flatness to her character. Yet, like everyone else, she also has the potential to become so much more.
One other enjoyable aspect of this movie is the "retro futuristic" impression it captures. From the SAFEGE suspension monorail, to the wall sized interactive video screens, there is definitely an impression of this being a future time, yet there are still plenty of signs of 1960's British production values. I had rented this movie and neglected to look at the bonus materials, but have since learned that there are some excellent behind the scenes material and interviews with cast/crew back when it was made.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older