Nineteen Eight-Four (1984) – Michael Radford

Screen giants Richard Burton and John Hurt square off in this frightening adaptation of George Orwell’s classic novel. A novel which seems to have gotten more right, than it ever got wrong.

The 101 Sci-Fi Movies brought this one to me, and it was amazing how close to modern-day society this film could be viewed as. Our entire modern society is there on the screen, and it really is terrifying.

Feeling as if it could be set in the immediate years following WWII, the film still resonates today, as it follows Winston Smith(Hurt) as he lives his life in a totalitarian state, which he helps contribute to. He changes headlines, images, and the news itself to reflect exactly what those in control want.

If they change the name of their enemy, the new enemy is the enemy they’ve always been fighting, and the history is changed to reflect that. Everything is controlled, there are monitors everywhere, constantly spouting propaganda through war-mongering and fear. They control the words, they control your thoughts, and they instill the fear of being betrayed by any and everyone and that fear is meant to keep you in line, and if you forget, well there are the public executions to remind you.

hurtThe salute they give the screens, to me, is a sign of subjugation. Their hands are raised over their heads, crossed at the wrists, suggesting they could be easily bound. The society is looking to control and demean women, by controlling procreation and somehow working to eradicate the orgasm.

The film is dark, and frightening, no more so than when Winston, being tortured by O’Brien (Burton) in Room 101, with a cage of two starving rats attached to his face. That makes for a truly horrific image, and no one could blame Winston for breaking at that moment, falling into exactly the form that society wants, willing to betray anyone, and living in fear.

The state had something to fear from Winston, because he was beginning to discover his individuality, and he was feeling something other than what the state wanted. He was falling in love with a woman who in turn had fallen in love with him, Julia (Suzanna Hamilton).

1984-2They’ve rented a tiny room, where they think they are far away from prying eyes, but Big Brother is everywhere, and not only are they betrayed but they betray one another, forced to submit to the State’s reeducation.

The entire country seems war-except for the comfortable offices of those higher up the class structure (no surprises there), the common people live in squalor, barely surviving, bartering for commonly needed items, accepting the status quo because it’s all for the betterment of the war effort (a war whose enemy can change constantly, and where people long dead can be claimed as heroes).

Radford has stripped the film down, there is no future tech, there is actually nothing in this film that doesn’t exist today, or even in 1984, and it’s a film whose relevance becomes more and more pronounced as each year passes. This is a quintessential film to be seen, reviewed and discussed.

In today’s day and age, we’re well aware that Big Brother is watching us, and have we become as complacent as those in the film, and original novel?

What do you think?


One Comment Add yours

  1. NL_Greece says:

    I LOVE the book but the movie was a very big disappointment. It wasn’t as dark as I thought it would be and the scene where Wilson is being tortured was not at all frightening. That scene was my favorite in the book and the director and the actors completely ruined it for me.

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