After The Atomic War the world is divided into three states. London is the capital of Oceania, ruled by a party who has total control over all its citizens. Winston Smith is one of the bureaucrats, rewriting history in one of the departments. One day he commits the crime of falling in love with Julia. They try to escape Big Brother's listening and viewing devices, but, of course, nobody can really escape...
Directed by: Michael Radford
. Starring: John Hurt
, Richard Burton
, Suzanna Hamilton
, Cyril Cusack
, Gregor Fisher
, James Walker
, Andrew Wilde
, David Trevena
, David Cann
, Anthony Benson
, Peter Frye
, Roger Lloyd Pack
, Rupert Baderman
. Music by: Dominic Muldowney
Despite what one reviewer states here, 1984 is an extremely important literary work. It explains to the reader what the ultimate facist state would be like. This story is never more important than now, with the world in crisis. It is an absolute must that people read or see 1984. Other films have been made about fascism. One of the most notable examples being Pier Pasolini's Salo. But the problem is hardly anyone is going to see that except for weirdo's or film buffs. This is because of the graphic nature of the film. Besides, Salo was explaining the inherently depraved, decadent nature of fascism. Orwell's 1984 explains the mechanisms that invoke totalitarianism.
John Hurt is excellent as the main character. I am quite a fan. The film is also very well made. The bleakness of the book is perfectly captured by the director. You feel sympathy for the characters even though they seem far away because they appear so weary, yet willing to hope. Transcendence is hinted at when there is a scene where Hurt looks out and sees a wilderness instead of a prison. Hurt's character, Winston looks like he is about half dead! You really hope that Winston and Julia can pull off a passionate love affair. Although you know that it is doomed and is more of an act of rebellion against big brother than anything else. The setting is a land that is half destroyed because of the constant wars. The wars being yet another method of control. They tell us in psychology that in war, depression and other similar disorders actually go down! Interesting eh? The start where everyone sits watching the screens and begins to scream at images of the enemy. This is a great moment in the film that shows a kind of utter conformity through extreme social norms. The most effective form of brainwashing.
The problem with the film, like the book, is that people will find it too bleak and horrific to really appreciate it. It is depressing but this is the horror of totalitarianism. The material is not intended to be a walk in the park. One of the most striking and horrific instances of 1984 is the 2+2 does not equal 4 scene. The torture and brainwashing too achieve utter obedience. Richard 'my voice competes with Orson Welles' Burton, who normally pontificates and chews up the scenery is remarkably restrained here. This restraint is the key to a very good performance. These torture scenes are horrific and Hurt really shines. This guy should have got an Oscar! The scenes had me gasping...When I originally read the book it took a while for me to get over the rats. EWWWWWWW!
Looking at the overall rating of 1984 I am just totally surprised that this film has such a low rating. Maybe people would rate the novel exactly the same way because of the material. This brings me too my other quibble. The film does not TOTALLY cover all of the novels themes. In fact, although Suzanna Hamilton puts on a good performance, her character is not completely captured. Viewers must remember that literature and cinema are two completely different mediums. There is no such thing as a 100 percent adaption. Therefore you must rate the film on the usual cinematic features. But the main thing is how well the overall message of the story was transmitted. This film powerfully demonstrates Orwell's message!
What is weird is one of the reviewers here states that they did not like the nudity. Well, I'm guessing the director was going for a Adam and Eve state with their being naked out in the woods. This is obviously the complete opposite of the unnatural state they have to live in. It does not cheapen the film and points more to the reviewers own repressed desires. Reaction formation perhaps? Besides no one is going to get this for naked bodies when porn is so freely available from your local video store!
Consider how relevant this story is. How propaganda and public relations has never been more prevalent. How public relations has overtaken journalism, causing journalism to become more and more watered down. How the political economy of the media is now being hugely influenced by being based in a monopoly economy. A few now control the flow of information for the general population in western nations. This is not conspiracy theory, this is fact. True investigative journalism is at an all time low and the media itself is in a shocking state of affairs. Like everything in our capitalist system, it is controlled by money. Ever read Michel Foucault? Dominant hegemonies, discourse analysis, bla bla bla. I don't want to get all crusty and academic here. But Rupert Murdoch is rubbing his hands together. Time and time again, the United States has been shown to be patently false about why they engaged in conflict with Iraq. Just read John Pilger! Yet many Americans supported the conflict. Even believing chemical weapons were used on American troops, when no such event took place! Why? Because they were manipulated by a sophisticated propaganda machine.
Knowledge is power. That is why in 1984 language is being systematically destroyed. This denial of language is the denial of thought itself. Reality is then more easily shaped by the oppressor. Remember dictators, such as Pol Pot destroy the educated first. This is why the film and book are so important, they are still very RELEVANT! In fact I think the progression of western society will become a mixture of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and 1984. Either way we are being manipulated and controlled and these books show you how. America has the 'Patriot Act' that was rushed through congress although human rights groups had many serious doubts about the act. In New Zealand we have a Government that is similary becoming too involved in the regulation of peoples lives. BIG BROTHER IS STILL ALIVE!
I give this film a 10 and think the last scene with Hurt looking so haunted in the barcoffee place was awesome! GREAT, GREAT BOOK! GREAT, GREAT FILM!
I have had a bit of a rant here...But hey I really like the book and this version of the film! So why not? This is a film for rebels!
Review by Skeptic459 from the Internet Movie Database.