Fahrenheit 451

“Linda, you’re absolutely fantastic”

We’re showing Fahrenheit 451 this week. Francois Truffaut’s 1966 version of Ray Bradbury’s seminal book.

It’s a strange film this. Tends to divide opinion. Critics see it as a rather tame imagining of Bradbury’s impassioned tale, while fans are quite taken by what Time labelled a ‘weirdly gay little picture’. It’s not a cult film as such, but it’s definitely one of those that either takes or it doesn’t.

It was Truffaut’s first English language film, and at times you wonder if it shows. It can feel like a quite mechanical interpretation if you’re expecting a line by line representation of the book you love. It’s littered with some charming characters though (we could listen to Cyril Cusack’s Captain all day long) and there are some truly joyous moments. The line we feature on the poster, where an ‘interactive’ episode of the mind-numbing soap The Family congratulates Linda’s contribution, fills us with glee every time we hear it.

Fahrenheit 451 by Bob Biggs

The SFT original Fahrenheit 451 poster by Bob Biggs

The scenes involving the ‘wall screens’ (now the size of your average TV – worth pondering) and the unfalteringly banal news and entertainment people are exposed to are some of the film’s most effective. They wouldn’t look out of place in a Kubrick dystopia. In a way, they’re what the film (and the book) are really about. It’s not a case of government censorship ala Orwell’s 1984, but rather, people simply choosing to give up on the arrogance and effort of words in favour of images.

Bradbury himself was quite pleased with the film, apparently. He was open about it not being perfect (don’t think he was a fan of Julie Christie playing the part of the two lead women), but he felt Truffaut was loyal to the spirt of the book. Now Ray Bradbury aint shy, so this is high praise indeed. Martin Scorcese is a fan too by all accounts. There are rumours of a remake in the offing, and according to a 2009 interview with Bradbury, Mel Gibson owns the rights to the book at the moment. If that ever comes to fruition, you’ll be looking back longingly at Truffaut’s strangely affecting little romp and wondering why you ever treated it so badly.

Fahrenheit 451 will be screened at the Dalston CLR James Library, E8 3BQ, on Thursday 8th August at 6:45pm.

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