Set in the future of an imaginary country, this tale of a dystopian future was originally written by Ray Bradbury in his novel of the same name. Starring Oskar Werner and Julie Christie this film directed by François Truffaut was one of the films I wanted to watch for a long time since I discovered the films of this auteur. Since he did not make a lot of genre films, and the ones he directed were very unique like his Vivement Dimanche! which is an ode to Hitchcock’s thrillers or Le dernier métro a film on the German occupation in France. Fahrenheit 451 is his sole entry in the Sci-Fi genre and I was intrigued to find what he did with the great novel of Bradbury.
At first it’s the bright colors that stand and cry out loud at the viewer. Then the peculiar mise en scène of the almost religious burnings of the books. When Guy Montag (Werner) puts his robe of protection before using the firethrower on the books it is like a priest who puts his habits before a mass. Then, we discover how artificial and sedated are the lives of the people living in this world of anti-cultural and television oriented homes. Guy’s wife Linda is stuck in front of the TV and takes an impressive number of pills to try to be happy. One day she even did an ovedose that required that they change her entire blood. The two health taker told to Montag that it is a recurrent affair to treat overdoses all day long.
Fahrenheit 451 has a subject very dear to Truffaut : books. He was an avid reader and he loved literature very much. It is obvious that he wanted to make a statement and declare his love of them. The way he shots the books, the burnings and the recitals displays the richness of this element of the plot. Bradbury’s novel is an essential reading and I believe that the film isn’t giving the proper treatment. There’s something I’m not quite sure abou that fails on me and I don’t know if it’s Werner’s presence or if it’s the often hightlighted difficulty of Truffaut of directing a film in English, but there’s something that doesn’t elevate this film to the level it should be. Sure it is an interesting Sic-Fi movie and an adaptation of one of the most interesting novel on dystopian future.
Far from being Truffaut’s better film, it is an intriguying entry in his filmography. It’s been a while since I wanted to watch it, I was not expecting a film as great as Alphaville or Forbidden Planet. However, it failed to catch my interest and to stick with me. It is worth the look especially for fans of Sci-Fi, but it is not as essential as Bradbury’s original work.