For those of us that possess a sizable collection of movies television shows it is undoubtedly true that you have been a devotee of this type of entertainment for a sizable portion of your life. If this is the case, then it is certain that movies you experienced years ago warned re-watching the perspective that he is an experience have brought to you. One film that was a favorite of mine during my college years one of my favorite novels was ‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury. The first major influences that brought me to a lifelong enjoyment of science fiction is one of my favorite genres of entertainment. By the time I read Fahrenheit 451, I was old enough to realize the social-political messages embedded in the very core of the story. After all, this is the age that most people become conscious of their social environment and we are better able to understand and appreciate the deeper subtext of the masterpiece of science-fiction. Set in a future dystopia where any form of artistic expression promoting ideas inconsistent with the approved requirements of the authorities, firefighters were dispatched, not to put out fires and save lives but to burn the offending books, quashing the ideas that are considered dangerous to the powers that be. This is a radical idea, offensive to the demographic of people there was just exploring literature espousing the ideas that contrary to the accepted status quo. The society that is perverted most professions in the world firefighters. By having these people normally engaged in one of the noblest endeavors conceivable acting as flunkies of repressive state burning books was one of the most terrible things I could imagine at the time. I was to love books as a means of entertainment, capable of taking us to places of the imagination in helping us to expand our appreciation of the world around us. The set them to flame is a crime tantamount to blasphemy. Moving forward several decades now and the political climate with ideas contrary to those in control of the government that has forwarded the idea of limiting the First Amendment and actively attacking journalists questioning the validity of our political leaders. This is the perfect time to revisit this landmark literary accomplishment with the realization of what seemed far-fetched in our youth has now become frighteningly close to reality.
In this version of the future, a totalitarian government has taken power instituting Ricardian measures to prevent the free expression and exchange of ideas that are deemed incompatible with the governmental philosophy and mandate. To enforce these edicts, firefighters have been repurposed from civil servants dedicated to saving lives and preserving property. Their authority extended far beyond any judicial or law enforcement representative we are accustomed to in this time and place. Instead, the firemen can enter any property suspected of harboring illicit material without a warrant or any form of legally constrained establish procedures. Then can forcibly enter a residence or place of business, search for contraband without a warrant and only a gossamer hint of suspicion and destroy by fire any material they deem to be inappropriate. When I first watched this movie, I was entering high school and barely a teenager. Now, after many decades experiencing life and trying to expand my understanding I once again revisited this story but in print on my tablet and with the 1966 film by re-watching a technically much improved digital copy. I was impressed with the details I had previously overlooked noticing how that collectively provided the film with previously unnoticed nuances ant a far greater depth regarding social commentary that my younger self could not readily discern. Guy Montag (Oskar Werner), was a respected member of society, a Fireman. His neighbor, Clarisse (Julie Christie), a young woman currently employed as a school teacher. Clarisse has placed her job in jeopardy because of her unorthodox ideology, a position not conducive to a peaceful existence. Despite the potential for criminal charges and social ostracism, Clarisse engages Montag in conversation asking whether he ever read any of the books he burns. Curiosity rises in him until he gives in and starts rescuing books from the pyre. At home Oskar fashions, a hiding place and further compelled by his curiosity he begins to read them. Among the first is ‘Charles Dickens' David Copperfield,' officially condemned as dangerously social for promoting such concepts of transcending the caste of your birth, striving to elevate yourself beyond your station in life.
Oskar’s curiosity is fanned to socially dangerous heights when he witnesses an openly defiant dedication to the socially forbidden act of self-martyrdom. During a routine call to a house of a known book collector, a quite middle-aged woman, she exhibited an exceptional dedication to her collections. When the flame throwers are lit, she preferred to being torched, experiencing an excruciatingly painful death rather than living without books and the encouragement of the free exchange of ideas through the medium of literature is a capital crime/ Montag had noticed this woman with his neighbor several times. The captain of the fire unit, (Cyril Cusack), engages Montag in a conversation concerning the danger of books with their potential to alter people into dangerous changes in their fundamental including self-awareness and establishing their ideas. In this society, independent though is the single most dangerous thing. After discharging the requisite duties of his shift, Montag returns home but is unable to enjoy even an iota of serenity.
His wife, Linda Montag (Julie Christie), like millions of other citizens, is completely enthralled by video program, ‘The Family.' As an extraordinarily popular TV program, it has a considerable influence on the public’s zeitgeist disproportionally affecting the lives of its fans. The format of the series was considered farfetched, a plot device greatly exaggerating some of the nascent impact television was capable of exerting on the viewers. It is a hybrid of formats completely unheard in 1953 when the source material novel was initially released. Is a viewer can garner sufficient popularity within the context of the series they are included in the ‘family unit’ gaining the highly coveted position of ‘cousin.' One of the strongest reasons that I felt the time had arrived to revisit this pivotal example of cinematic artistry reviewed through the prism of current events and the intense domination of public opinion by the media. By incorporating aspects of such modern contrivances as multiplayer real life gaming juxtaposing them against reality shows that boast to be socially relevant ‘experiments’ guise as a game show. The series prophesied self-worth not merely influenced by anonymous public polling but entirely determined by it.
By having the same actress play, the same role might appear to be an unusual casting choice, but as the story unfolds, it becomes increasingly obvious to the discerning cinephile that this was a brilliant creative choice. It intensifies the effects of the juxtaposition between a woman enshrouded by an artificial, derived sense of self-worth with one that dares to define herself dangerously outside the proscribed boundaries imposed by the totalitarian society.
Montag was caught between these two superficially identical women, the product of the draconian mandates that created his job and another opposed to everything his position forces him to uphold. It is more than pieces of paper being set ablaze; they represent the cultural heritage of our species, the philosophical and intellectual evolution of humanity. The authorities were actively repressing an integral part of being part of society yet continue to express individuality. Traditionally book burning is considered one of the most heinous acts a dictatorial regime can manifest. In today’s world, we are inexorably moving closer to people abdicating freedoms for the false sense of security. Politicians have obtained the highest possible positions on a platform of fear mongering, xenophobia and sublimated violence. In the fifties, the world was during McCarthyism, the total commitment to hating a targeted group on the insistence of a convincing spokesman. When the movie was produced, we were embroiled in a social upheaval founded on rebellion against the mandates of the government. Montag is trying to navigate the aftermath of such a struggle were the people lost
The angst experienced by Montag, the symbol of the oppressive authorities, as forbidden, thoughts begin to ruminate, making him doubt everything he thought he believed. Montag encounters a group of rebels, a literal grassroots movement. People have joined to preserve the literary heritage of humanity. Each person refers to him/herself as a book. This entails dedicating their lives to the preservation of a single tome placing this copy out of reach of even the most diligent search by the firemen, committing the literary work to memory. Risking a mandatory death sentence, these quiet revolutionaries willingly undertook the salvation of the very best creative minds produced by our species such as Shakespeare, Plato, and a myriad of names that would be lost to the ashes if the ignorant and oppressive regime were successful. A story once considered a prophetic warning decades ago has been imbued with a new, more immediate purpose. Demonstrating that the worst fears of our past have become the warning claxon for the current generation. Literature encourages unfettered thought reduced to anathema to their concept of the ideal society. Science is replaced with ‘alternate facts’ designerd to magnify fears and insecurities leveraging agendas that increase the wealth of the top 1% at the expense of the financial and physical health of a substantial portion of the population, this novel ever was truly about book burning but remains a cautionary tale of the abdication of fundamental aspects of humanity. This is an ideal time to revisit the films that helped shape not just your appreciation of cinema but contributed significantly to the formation of our adult perspective.