‘Fahrenheit 451’ adds societal concern for future generations

Stephanie Melchiore

By Stephanie Melchiore

Staff Reporter

The feature film, “Fahrenheit 451,” directed by French auteur François Truffaut and released to the public in 1966, is an adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s novel depicting an oppressive governmental ban on the written word.

“Fahrenheit 451” was Truffaut’s first endeavor in the science fiction genre, as well as his first and only English-language film.

Truffaut began his film career as a film critic, and his avid passion for cinema and literature, which originated when he was a young boy, led him to start directing.

As a child, he made it a personal goal to see three films per day and read three books per week. Perhaps it is this fervor that led Truffaut to direct a film about a ban on books.

“Fahrenheit 451” depicts a world in the near future when the government discourages individualism and enforces a conformist social order. Intellectualism in the form of literature is oppressed because it threatens the rulers’ powers.

Truffaut shows this throughout the film in the deliberate absence of written words; for example, the opening credits are spoken.

Text disappears almost entirely within this cinematic civilization, down to the labels on medication.

The film focuses on the conflicted Montag, played by Oscar Werner, one of many firemen ordered to ignite, rather than extinguish fires destroying piles of books.

When he encounters Clarisse, played by Julie Christie, who is part of the resistance group whose members commit books to memory hoping to pass them on audibly, Montag begins doubting the morality of his job.

He begins secretly reading the books he has been ordered to destroy, risking his job and his life.

Although “Fahrenheit 451” concerns itself with censorship issues and government control, Bradbury also wants to satirize a culture engrossed with television, a less intellectually engaging medium than books, and to criticize the lack of interest in reading.

With interior scenes set up around wide-screen TV sets, antennae lining the rooftops of houses, Montag’s wife entranced by the TV, and the simultaneous, as well as symbolic, fires engulfing mounds of books, Truffaut evokes Bradbury’s societal concern.

The viewer is reminded of the 1949 George Orwell novel “1984,” as both novels and films include an omnipresent medium of distraction from the looming power structures.

This sci-fi classic will be shown four times as part of the Cultural Film & Lecture Series in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 and 7 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m.

Admission is $3.50 for students with ID and $5.00 for all others.

At the Monday viewing, guest speaker John-Paul Spiro will introduce the film and lead a discussion afterward.

For more information, contact the communication department at X9-4750 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or consult the CFS Web page: www.culturalfilms.villanova.edu.