“This had been a pleasure to burn.”
Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 has a fantastic introductory sentence but is not a fantastic novel. Rather, it’s a publication based on a fantastic idea. Unfortunately, a recent movie adaptation, co-written and directed by Ramin Bahrani and produced by HBO, takes exactly the same thought and once again, falters.
The title of this book denotes the temperature at which paper ignites, according to Bradbury, who maintained he called up his regional fire department to get the info. Published 65 decades back, Fahrenheit 451 is put in a Native American city in the not-too-distant future, one in which two nuclear wars have already been waged. The firemen of the civilisation, of whom protagonist Guy Montag is just one, perform the reverse of their original role: they put fire to bodily books, those dangerous objects that could actually make people think for them. Montag, that begins to have second thoughts about his incendiary actions, surreptitiously procures some amounts to find out what the fuss is about, and the remaining part of the plot issues his awakening.
Some of this book’s characters, especially the women, are distressingly apartment. The idealistic Clarisse, a 17-year-old girl who first awakens Montag’s conscience, by way of example, or his wife, who’s too clearly Clarisse’s reverse in her hidebound and fatuous ways. A lot of different characters tend to be much more emblematic than flesh-and-blood, set up to pontificate rather than act.
What makes the book compelling then, and deservedly durable, are the symbols that Bradbury weaves into the narrative and the manner in which intense censorship and manipulation are practised. (“If you don’t need a guy unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a query to fear himgive one. Even better, give him not one.”)
A populace that is just too keen to be diverted and return bureau to a authoritarian regime ought to sound familiar as a member of the burning issues.
Obviously, then, the publication is dangerously applicable is an understatement. Yet, it’s in underlining this the hottest cinematic version becomes irksome. Bradbury, like other writers of dystopian fiction like George Orwell or Aldous Huxley, is wise enough to create the subject related, but not so much the particulars. The movie, however, decides to offer significance to the two.
Creepy digital assistants, sociable media-saturated giant screens, criminal book digitisation, addictive virtual reality headsets, suspended digital identities (the things of Aadhar nightmares) as well as with the novel, memorising texts to make them endure: all this and much more are shoehorned into the story. A small selectivity would have gone quite a ways. When, for example, echoing a concept from the book, Clarisse states,”We did it to ourselves. We demanded a world in this way,” one fantasies this motif was researched further.
There is too much else happening for this, however. Giant tech companies are revealed to be evil, and the storyline coalesces into a McGuffin contained in a strand of DNA the figures zero in on at the decidedly un-Bradbury orgasm.
There is no denying the movie has its heart in the right place. The portrait of the artist as a young fireman comes at a dystopian colour palette with enough futuristic thingamabobs — not to mention unnerving scenes of bodily books being reduced to ashes — to make it glossy and watchable. Ironically, it’s the nonstop striving for contemporaneity that makes it regular.
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