Fahrenheit 451

I think my soul just died a little. What would the world be without books? Any kind of books, novels, philosophies, poetry, short stories, manuscripts, screenplays? Without text to narrate to us different world, theories, ideologies? An adaptation of a novel by Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 brings the audience to a world without text, and into a life of man whose world began to change when he began to read.

Montag was a fireman, in a different sense of the word. He and his team go out and burn books, always on a search for hidden libraries (a treasure trove of finds in their career). He lived a normal life - he had a wife who was very participant in television, and lived in a beautiful home in the suburbs. His life began to change when a neighbor, Clarisse asked him if he ever read any of the books he’s burned - and he did just that. 

The subject of the book was fleshed out in beautiful scenery, using bright yet subtle light, colors as vivid as the day. Yet amidst that beauty, we see forms of knowledge and preservation being destroyed bit by bit, done by people who became ignorant because of the loss of text. From the captain who has expressed his distain for any kind of text to his wife who’d rather swallow pills and entertain herself with a monotone television life, it was easy to see how Montag had quickly detatched himself when he began reading, devouring information and words, eventually developing all sorts of thoughts and emotions that he wouldn’t have had if not for books. 

I haven’t read the book so I don’t know how accurate the portrayal was, but there seemed to have some gaps in terms of storytelling. The scenes shift from one instance to another, relying on context to provide the necessary information. While in a way it helps shorten the screentime, the film still manages to leave some plot holes to the story. The film also devoids any information about the characters, except that they either love to read or not. While literature plays an important role in the story, it didn’t necessarily aid in character development, leaving bits of the movie floating, with the direction it took hoping that these left out bits will somehow make sense. The world was depicted eloquently, with the score bordering on whimsical and shrill terror. The film tried to inject some artistic telling here and there, but because of the gaps or possible missing detail, it doesn’t hold well. 

Julie Christie played two roles (Linda and Clarisse), the contrasting parts in Montag’s life. Her performance was great that rarely do you think of the characters as one actress. She was able to distinguish one character from the other, and her interactions with Montag (as either character) were well-delivered. Oskar Werner was also able to match Christie’s performance, playing Montag. Perhaps if the film didn’t have much gaps would Werner’s performance be of strength, but nonetheless, he was good in the role. The gradual shift of his character was very evident - from his systematic structure of order, he had revered to a man who acted quickly, who started to contemplate on the misinformed ideas of his colleagues, to find a source of knowledge apart from what society tells him. It also helps that his voice was nice to listen to - he narrates with vigor and subtlety, and his interactions with Christie looked genuine, but does not interject much emotion. His facial expressions could use some variety, as he held a similar face to most of the scenes where he should be conveying a different emotion. 

My personal library was nearby while I was watching the film, and I could not imagine the world without books, without all these stories and ideas that are just waiting to be shared with the world. That wasn’t a pretty world to live into. 

Final Word: Solid effort from Truffaut.

Cast: Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack
Director: Fran├žois Truffaut
Year: 1966


  1. I'm glad you reviewed this because I love this novel but I've never seen the film adaptation. It sounds like, as you said, a solid effort with some problems with adapting the storytelling to the screen.

    1. I'll try to read the novel soon so I have a clearer grasp of the movie in terms of its storytelling. Going through the scenes only using the adaptation as a guide, it was a structure film.