Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

FAHRENHEIT 451 (1966)
Article #1153 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-11-2004
Posting Date: 10-8-2004
Directed by Francois Truffaut
Featuring Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack

In the future where all books are burned, a fireman defies the law and begins to read.

Ray Bradbury was one of my favorite authors as a kid, and I still love his work today. Yet despite this, I’ve never quite warmed up to his most famous novel, which is odd, because I’m inordinately fond of his novella, “Pillar of Fire”, which covers much of the same thematic ground. Furthermore, I’ve seen a few of Francois Truffaut’s movies, and I must confess that I have real trouble appreciating them; there’s something about his style that doesn’t speak to me. It should then come as no surprise that I have some problems with this movie. I think it’s overlong, I find Oskar Werner entirely too distant in the role of Montag, and there are times where I really find myself pining for the visual equivalent of Bradbury’s prose for good stretches of this movie. Still, this movie is far from a washout; on the plus side, Julie Christie’s performances in both her roles are memorable and Cyril Cusack is simply wonderful as the captain of the firemen whose poetic dismissal of the whole book culture is so ringingly beautiful to the ears that it serves to slyly undercut the very gist of his message. I also admire the way the printed word has been almost completely expunged from the sets; even the opening credits are narrated so as to deprive you of the pleasure of reading them. Plus, the movie has at least two unforgettable scenes that more than compensate for any of my other objections; namely, the sequence where the old lady with the secret library takes matters into her own hands with a box of matches, and the entire end of the movie with the book people, a sequence that is sad, beautiful, charming and sometimes quite funny and which never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

Half empty or half full? Me, I’ll probably watch this one again, but I hope you’ll excuse me if I keep the fast forward handy.

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