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In this admirable attempt at bringing George Orwell's classic novel to the screen, director Michael Radford is perhaps too faithful to his source material. This is the well-known story of Winston Smith (John Hurt), a citizen of Oceania whose job it is to rewrite history for Big Brother,
the autocratic symbol of a repressive regime that has forbidden such things as freedom of thought and expression--including sex. Winston becomes involved in an illict love affair with Julia (Suzanna Hamilton), a young woman who works in the Ministry of Truth. Unfortunately for Winston, a
high-ranking member of the government, O'Brien (Richard Burton), who has looked upon him as a protege, discovers the rebellion. Orwell wrote his novel in 1948, and his vision of the future is unrelentingly bleak. Radford chooses to present a view of the future as it might have looked to Orwell in
1948. This is not a future made up of colorful blinking lights and high-tech manufacturing; it is a gray, dull, stark, depressing world possessed of little visual stimulation. The performances in the film are excellent, and its look is entirely appropriate and mesmerizing--but only for a while.
The film's basic flaw is that it's just too painful, too depressing, and too slow to watch.