Fahrenheit 451

1966, Movie, NR, 112 mins


Throughout much of his brilliant career, Francois Truffaut was criticized for not making explicitly political films. However, he did tackle political themes in two films: FAHRENHEIT 451, an indictment of totalitarianism and book-burning, and THE LAST METRO, which dealt with the German occupation of France. These films address the suppression of two media of deep personal significance for Truffaut--literature and the theater, respectively. The former is the most restrained and elegaic of science fiction films, full of poignant moments: a paean to the physical importance of books.

FAHRENHEIT 451 (the title refers to the temperature at which paper burns) is set sometime in the future and follows Montag (Oskar Werner), a devoted and obedient "fireman" who excels in ferreting out books in the most obscure hiding places. One day, after watching a woman sacrifice her life for her forbidden library, he decides to keep a volume for himself, curious to learn why these tomes are deemed so threatening. Soon he must choose between his life as a civil servant--in which he follows orders and lives with a listless, television-addicted wife, Linda (Julie Christie)--and his desire to live as a free thinking man in a free society, inspired by subversive schoolteacher Clarisse (Christie again).

Severely underrated and misunderstood by critics who wanted Truffaut to continue making films like his early French New Wave classics THE 400 BLOWS and JULES AND JIM, FAHRENHEIT 451 is a marvelously courageous personal statement that becomes more fascinating with time. This was Truffaut's first color film. The cool crisp cinematography is provided by future director Nicolas Roeg. The great Bernard Herrmann supplied the memorable score. leave a comment

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