So today ends Banned Book Week. As this is the first time in forever that it runs into October, I thought what better time than now to review this movie.
Guy Montag: Do you remember what you asked me the other day: if I ever read the books I burn? Remember?
Guy Montag: Last night I read one.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is one of my absolute favorite books. I was first was introduced to it at the age of 10, when I came across my parents watching the film, this movie. I didn’t quite understand it, so my mom gave me the book to read. Since then I read it at least once a year.
So I don’t always love when they turn a book into a film as usually the film greatly disappoints, but in this case I love this film. Although I do dislike one thing. I can’t stand Julie Christie in the dual roles of Montag’s wife Linda and Clarisse, the woman who makes him start questioning what he believes. I know why the director chose it-to highlight the differences, contrast the personalities, etc.-but I think it makes it seem like he falls for her because she looks like his wife instead of who she is. It turned out to be a last minute decision as they couldn’t get who they wanted (Alfred Hitchcock wouldn’t let Tippi Hedrun go as he was obsessed and controlling her). The studio wanted Julie Christie and François Truffaut decided to have her as both characters.
François Truffaut was known to say he disliked SciFi films, and a friend suggested that he try Fahrenheit 451. He did and was hooked, feeling he needed to make a film of it.
But all was not happy on the set. Terrence Stamp was supposed to be Montag, but dropped out and was recast with Oskar Werner. Werner is the only one in the whole production to have a different accent, German to everyone’s English. I don’t mind as it is another thing that sets him apart from the others. He and Truffaut did not get along, and Truffaut said that if he hadn’t wanted to make film so bad and spent so much time raising money for it, he would have walked. Even though the two had their differences and fights, the end result of the film looked good to me and remains a favorite dystopian future film.
So we start the film off with seeing how every house has antennae. Everyone watches TV, are they also being watched?
The credits are read out to you instead of you reading-to go with the no reading anything in the future. This adds to the creepiness. of the film.
They start the film off immediately with them going in the firetruck all dressed in black suits similar to Nazi uniforms. The firetruck is an old fashioned one that just holds the men-there is no fire hose.
The music playing makes me think of Psycho-the way the music lifts and falls increasing your anxiety. I looked it up and it is by the same composer, Bernard Herrmann.
I can’t believe I got that right!
So back to the film-a man is calmly eating an apple in his home receives a phone call-warning him to get out. He leaves with nothing, running. The fireman come in and start searching for books, finding Don Quixote in the light-I read somewhere that a lot of the books used are the directors favorites.
They have nasty looking tools they use to search everywhere-the TV is full of books, it being completely fake. You couldn’t do that today with these skinny ones. After they collect all the items they take them outside and burn them all.
I’d be freaking out if those were my books.
A little boy picks up a book off the ground and looks at it, curious. A fireman looks at him-and dad, scared, throws it on the fire.
So in the book all the firemen look alike, one of the reasons why you are given that vocation. They are all dark haired and tall, same build. In here, most of them are all a shade of blonde, ah Nazi ambience again. It makes sense as Truffaut was a preteen during WWII, I’m sure the experiences really affected him, espechially seeing the Nazis taking over French cities. He probably used some of those experiences when directing this.
It is really unsettling to see these men in black and they all look so much alike-a faceless horde in a way.
Captain Beatty, Montag’s boss refers to Montag in a kind of the third person-just by his last name. No I You, etc. No individuality at all.
Montag rides the train home, and runs into Clarisse. In the book she was a teen and a representation of innocence. In here she is a woman, which is not a bad change as they decided to go the route of a romantic relationship.
Clarisse talks to him, and she loves to talk. It seems a bit odd has she comes up and talks to him, I feel it made more sense as a teenager, as being young you wouldn’t always know or recognize social cues like an adult would.
They get off at the same stop because they are neighbors and Clarisse talks to him and asks him if it was true that firemen used to put out fires instead of starting them. Montag laughs at her, and says houses have always been fireproof-firemen have always destroyed books.
Clarisse asks about why Montag does it, and Montag gives the spiel of what they told him, books are rubbish. Clarisse continues to press him on it and Montag continues giving the spiel. I like this because it shows that Montag isn’t thinking about it or believes in the books being an evil to society, but that he has been taught that and never gave it another though-but now, those questions have started a seed in his head.
Clarisse asks him, “Do you ever read the books you burn?” and he repeats the spiel again…but something has him thinking….
Montag gets home and the TV is on, the TV is always on. His wife is obsessed with the TV calling them “her family”, the announcers being referred to as “cousins”. he TV tlks to people nd calls them cousins, evryone is one hapy family. His wife, Linda, is so checked out, she only cares about watching TV.
That night she has a special part in the episode. At times the show will pause as they will ask a question and wait for Linda to reply. Montag is checked out of this as he is bored-his upcoming promotion is blah, life is blah, wife is blah. This makes me think of The Truman Show when Truman starts thinking, why did I choose this life and then realizing he didn’t really choose it.
I love all the little touches Truffaut has with the newspaper being just has pictures. I never noticed it before but it looks like the Ku Klux Klan on the back.
While Montag “reads” the paper, Linda watches a mini TV by her bed, I told you that’s her life. She has to watch 24/7.
Next day at work everyone congratulates him on the promotion, but he’s not as thrilled as he should be. One thing I really like about this is seeing the Montag teach the new recruits. I think it adds to the film. Montag is currently teaching them about concealment-must learn to where you would hide them. Hide in every day objects like toasters, use cylindrical objects like thermos to trick the firemen, using empty TVs, even hiding them in the house construction, etc. All the things he talks about will be shown again in the film as hiding places.
Montag gets called to come see the Captain. When they greet their higher ups they do a saute across the body, again reminiscent of Hitler and the Nazis. I definitely think some aspects of this were influenced by the Occupation of France and WWII
The boss looks though the file, as he wants to talk to him about the promotion. In his file are only pictures-ones from every angle, in fact they look like prison photos. Their whole interaction is strange but we learn a lot about the world they live in. You see Montag is married, childless, says little, and agrees with everything that his boss says. The perfect man to be risen up in power. That’s their ideal person.
That night, Montag gets home and finds the TV off-strange. Something is wrong as Linda always has the TV on.
Linda has overdosed on drugs. Earlier Montag asked her about how many pills she took and she laughed shrugged it off. He calls 911 and no doctor or nurse come. Instead two guys come to pump her stomach and give her a transfusion. I liked in the book how Bradbury described it as a snake going into her, in my mind I aways saw them as like plumbers snaking a drain. The guys are jolly and joking, just another day this happens all the time. The guys joke and laugh as they go out that “tomorrow she’ll be hungry for all types of things”.
The next day Linda is normal, nothing is remembered. Montag is upset and tries to talk to her but she doesn’t care she just has an appetite for everything and all is forgotten as all seems fine, in fact more than fine.
The next day Montag takes the train home and sees Clarisse, thinking about what she said.
One thing that is interesting seeing people on the train, people are all in love with themselves. When he’s on the train he sees the girls looking at themselves and admiring their beauty and the boys doing the same. No one interacts with each other, or talks to each other, etc. They are too busy focused on themselves. It’s like that Billy Idol song, Dancing With Myself. All they care about id their reflection.
The next day Montag comes home with something in his pack. He stuffs it in the bathroom. What is it?
It is a book!
He’s reading David Copperfield! I really like how they show him reading with his finger under each word. I know they probably did for the camera-but it is how a lot of people read when they first learn.
The next day Clarisse is walking with an older lady and they see Montag, watching him on the train as well. Clarisse goes alone and plans running into him. I don’t like that as much as in the book Clarisse, looked for him at first but then they continued to run into each other organically as Clarisse’s innocence and her total opposite of what was normal to him-intrigued him.
So Clarisse is upset and runs into Montag, the two go into a coffee shop and shares what is going on. She’s upset as she was dismissed from work (she was on probation as a teacher). Montag tells her to go and talk to them, but she doesn’t want to go lone. Clarisse calls Montag’s boss as Linda and says he is sick. I can’t believe Montag would go along with that as he is such a yes man, but I guess that is why he agrees with Clarisse.
So watching this film, I don’t really like Julie Christie in the dual role. I know money was tight and that’s why they ended up doing it that way but I really wish they had another actress in this. Julie Christie as Linda is perfect-she’s froth, light, no substance-only focused on the shallow things in life and checked out-but Christie as Clarisse is where I feel she struggles. It’s not wholly her fault, she trying to be do completely different people, which is extremely tough. Clarisse is light, carefree, innocent, naive, and endearing-Christie tries to do it but instead of being young she comes off as if she is trying too hard to be carefree. It doesn’t work for me.
When they get inside the school the kids all dress the same and are doing their multiplication in perfect unison. It’s really creepy and reminds me of the scene in A Wrinkle in Time when all the kids on the planet do everything in perfect unison.
At the school the children all run from Clarisse in fear. They loved her a few days ago, and now they hate her. Someone tosses her belongings tied up in a scarf and slide them down the hall-very clear their message: get out and stay out.
I really like the set of this film-the hallway is long and foreboding. The predominant clothes are red, orange, black, and gray-like fire and firefighters.
Montag admits to Clarisse that he read a book-wow the whole David Copperfield in one night?
Now that he started, he can’t stop. He has more and more book every night, he’s reading and thinking, even reading the dictionary.
Mildred wakes up one evening and starts investigating finding a ton of them. She’s upset and wants them gone, but Montag is too protective.
Guy Montag: [to Linda] You’ve spent your whole life in front of that family wall. These books are my family.
Montag starts asking Linda questions about their relationship. When did they meet? Why did we get married? How did we fall in love? Linda cannot remember, neither can Montag. It makes me think of The Truman Show, when he starts thinking about his life and how it all happened.
The next day Montag tries to use the fireman pole but it’s not working. He has to take the gorgeous spiral staircase. If I ever built a house I would want a spiral staircase as it is just lovely. Anyways, the bell rings, and the men get dressed and go out, instead of the pole, Montag has to take the stairs.
They go to the house and find it unlocked, strange. It’s a beautiful Victorian and the lady comes out-it was the one that Clarisse had been talking to, the teacher who was fired and she took their place. She laughs at the men when she sees them and quotes:
Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.
This lady is awesome-the way she stands up to them. They try to push her around and she laughs in their faces. I hope that if I ever stand up for my beliefs I’m as cool as she is.
Her house is full of books.
There are books everywhere and in everything-every place they could be hidden. They toss them downstairs to burn them.
The hous has a secret room-a secret library.
That’s soooooo cool!!!!!!!!!
Captain Beatty takes Montag upstairs and tells him that every fireman once in their career wants to read one, a book-but he cautions Montag that there is noting.
The Captain: Listen to me, Montag. Once to each fireman, at least once in his career, he just itches to know what these books are all about. He just aches to know. Isn’t that so?…These are all novels, all about people that never existed, the people that read them it makes them unhappy with their own lives. Makes them want to live in other ways they can never really be…Look, all stories of the dead, biography that’s called, and autobiography. My life, my diary, my memoirs, my – intimate memoirs…Robinson Crusoe, the Negroes didn’t like that because of his man, Friday. And Nietzsche, Nietzsche, the Jews didn’t like Nietzsche. Here’s a book about lung cancer. You see, all the cigarette smokers got into a panic, so for everybody’s peace of mind, we burn it….You see, it’s… it’s no good, Montag. We’ve all got to be alike. The only way to be happy is for everyone to be made equal.
As Captain Beatty rants, he goes through the different books in the library. Here are a few I caught the names of: Othello, Vanity Fair, Alice in Wonderland, Edicts of Aristotle, Robinson Crusoe, Madame Bovary, The World of Salvador Dali, Holy Deadlock, Confessions of an Irish Rebel-etc.
Montag steals a book, but another fireman spots him.
Beatty’s philosophizing is interrupted when they find out the lady won’t leave the house. Montag wants her to be forced to leave, but Beatty doesn’t care and says if she wants to die she can die.
They spray the house with kerosine, but instead of them lighting it up, she has matches in her pocket.
Yep, she’s going to decide when the fire will come. The men run while she burns with her “family”. Montag is the last one out, shaken by the scene. Uncertain of how to feel, what this means, what is right, what is wrong, etc.
Linda and her friends are all gathered watching TV, their talk is meaningless and shallow. Montag is mad and and upset about what happened and shares about how he saw the lady being burned. He’s angry and lashing out at these empty husks-not living but just killing time. Mntag brings out a book and reads it to them, a passage from David Copperfield. One lady, Doris, starts crying as the words evoke emotion in her.
“There can be no disparity in marriage like unsuitability of mind and purpose.”
All the ladies leave. Montag is like an addict, a book addict.
He is compelled to read, he wants to read everything-he feels the need to catch up-as there is just so much and so little time.
That night Montag has a nightmare. He’s i the schoolhouse, on the train, at the lady’s house who burned up, instead of the lady it is Clarisse and he sees her burning.
You know I realized watching the film this time that Clarisse and Montag actually haven’t spent a lot of time together in the film. I feel like they had more meaningful conversations in the book.
That night Clariss hears the siren and sees the firemen coming to her house. She grabs her go bag and escapes through the roof. The next day Montag goes to work but feels sick. Linda can’t stand the books and begs him to get rd of them threatening to leave him as she can’t live with the fear and anxiety, but Montag ignores her
Montag goes to talk toClarisse and finds the house boarded up and that they were arrested last night. Montag has to know if they are alright and hurries to work. Outside, Montag spots Captain Beatty yelling at a recruit. Montag uses that time to sneak into the captain’s office to find out what happened to Clarisse. He uses a stud in his glove to unscrew the window in the door and reach in and unlock it. Very Macgyver. But unbknowst to him, downstaies the captain has just been given the file.
Will Montag get out in time!!?
Oh no! The music emphasizing every step of the Captain.
Montag gets caught, and the Captain shows him the pictures of those that were imprisoned and those that escaped. The captain thinks he wants he house, but questions how he got into his locked office. Before Montag can reply he faints from relief and is sent home.
Mildred decides she can’t do this anymore and reports Montag.
Meanwhile, Montag searches for Clarisse and finds her getting off the train. Clarisse stayed away all night but needs to sneak into her house to get something. She is searching for a list of names and addresses of people hiding, Montag offers to help as it is something he knows how to do and is really good at. Remember he taught all the recruits.
He discovers it in a vase-cylindrical objects, and burns it for Clarisse.
Clarisse admits that she picked hjm out-she thought he would help them. Montag tells her he knows as he realized it when the woman burned herself. Clarisse shares she did it as she was afraid that when they tortured her she would spill everything.
Clarisse shares with him that there is a place where the book people live. People who have escaped from society-they live far away in the hills and country-all have a book committed to memory. No longer themselves, they are a book.
Clarisse asks him to come with him, but Montag has unfinished business. Things he wants to do here, to try and destroy the power of the fireman. They part ways both believing they will never see each other again.
Linda packs up at the house, taking her clothes and a picture of herself (wow, that’s telling), while Montag goes to the station to try to give his resignation-but Beatty refuses it and convinces him to take a final call. When they stop at the house, Montag realizes it is his house!
Montag helps pull all the books out, although he does stuff one in his uniform. They give Montag the flame thrower to destroy it and he burns his bed-the betrayal of his wife.
Then the tv he always hated, the family. He then burns the books-Moby Dick, Don Juan, The Mystery of Jack the Ripper, Plexus, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, MAD, Lolita, The Brothers Karamoz, etc.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Not the books.
Everytime I watch the books burn my heart breaks a little and it makes me want to cry. This would be me:
Montag won’t let them burn his special book, and when Captain Beatty tries to pull it from him and threatens to arrest him-he turns the flame thrower on Captain Beatty, and the house.
Montag runs away and the authorities call out to all citizens to look out their doors for Montag, a man running and report if they find him. They use all those pictures in his file to splatter across TV.
So in the film, Clarisse told him where to go to find the book people, while in the book he just runs to the country. In both, all people live in the city and no one ever goes out to the country which makes it the perfect place to hide out.
Montag is hidog as they search for him. In the book they sent a mechanical hound that searches for him by his DNA with a needle full of toxic substance that will find him and prick him, killing him. I don’t think they had the technology a the time to make a creepy and realistic looking one. I don’t really want to watch the remake with Michael B. Jordan as you know how I feel about remakes:
I espechially do not like HBO ruining books I like (I did not like The Big Little Lies adaption)-but I would be interested to see how they have they do the hound.
As Montag walks he comes upon a group of people. One man greets him and shows him to a TV where they watch Montag’s capture.
In the future, people have short attention spans and cannot keep the viewers waiting. They must have a climax and they find a guy just walking down the street and shoot him down.
We see different people walking around-hey there is the guy from the very beginning! So remember how the film didn’t have a lot of money? The Book People at the end were mostly played by members of the film crew.
Some of the book people are Plato’s Republic, Wuthering Heights, Alice in Wonderland, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Pilgrim’s Progress, Waiting for Godot, The Jewish Question, The Martian Chronicles, The Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, The Prince, Pride and Prejudice (spilt between two people as it was originally two volumes), etc.
One day society will want them again and books will be printed again.
Montag’s “special book” is Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe. He will be memorizing it and runs into Clarisse,
I love at the end how everyone is walking and reciting their books, Montag reading and trying to memorize his. The lovely words from all different books running over each other as the snow falls.
Everytime I watch this I always winder, which book would I want to memorize? Which would be the one I think is the important enough to carry on to the next generation? I feel like it would be too hard to pick one.
For more on Fahrenheit 451, go to It Was a Pleasure to Burn: Fahrenheit 451
For more Ray Bradbury, go to Book Club Picks: The Illustrated Man