1984 (1956) – Michael Anderson

DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies provides a glimpse into a dystopian future that may not be so different from a time we live in now, with the 1956 adaptation of Orwell’s classic novel, 1984.

The screenwriters say they ‘freely’ adapted the original story so there are differences from book to screen, but thematically, it feels right on point.

With Big Brother watching, the world continues after part of it was consumed in nuclear fire. In it’s stead, in surviving places across the globe, societies have arisen, and we look at Oceania, predominantly the surviving parts of the UK, which are now ruled as a totalitarian society.

People are monitored constantly, thought police and indoctrinated children prowl the streets looking for spies, and though traitors, emotional and physical connection are frowned on, and nothing and no one is safe from the all seeing eyes that watch everything.

We are introduced to Winston (Edmond O’Brien) who has found a diary (something outlawed) and is beginning to record his own thoughts, which do not embrace the party theology.

He meets a woman, Julia (Jan Sterling), who after some fear and paranoia, the pair begin seeing one another, embracing love and emotion, something beyond Big Brother’s abilities to control (and consequently illegal).

As they discover their emotions, they also begin to realise that they are not the only ones who feel a distrust and hate for Big Brother, even as Winston continues his work of rewriting history to reflect the party’s beliefs.

Soon, they are betrayed, and are taken into custody, where they are brainwashed and interrogated endlessly, and leading into the troubling conclusion of the film…

I very much like this version of the film, I’d only seen the ’84 version with John Hurt, and there’s something about the look and the design of this one (and the added bonus of having been shot in black and white) that lends it a bit of a documentary feel, and we can look at our present world through this lens of the past.

And while not everything has come to pass exactly as Orwell wrote, parallels to modern day society can be drawn with frightening ease, and need not be detailed here. One needs only to look at the media, those who lead, and the technology we carry around to realise that Orwell may have been more right than he could have believed.

I find dystopian futures fascinating, because it seems like such a juxtaposition to my constant strive towards hope, and that we, as a species can be better, if we can just get out of our own way.

There is more to come yet in DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies, and I can’t wait to see what they bring me next…

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