Published on August 24th, 2009 | by Yellow Magpie0
Nineteen Eighty-Four Film Review: Still A Radically Insightful And Relevant Film
Nineteen Eighty-Four Film Review
Director: Michael Radford.
Cast: John Hurt; Richard Burton; Suzanna Hamiliton and Cyril Cusack.
Here is Yellow Magpie’s Nineteen Eighty-Four film review.
The film is set in a totalitarian state in the year 1984. Poverty is an inescapable fact of life for the inhabitants of Oceania due to an endless war being fought with neighbouring Eastasia.
Winston Smith is a member of the ruling party of Oceania. Winston’s job is to rewrite history so that it reflects the party line. He does this by modifying newspaper archives so that everything is consistent with the party’s propagandist version of reality.
The idea being that the less words that people can speak, the less room there is for dissension.
Meanwhile, people in Oceana are being insidiously controlled by the government. Virtually every part of their life is affected by the party. Only ‘Newspeak‘ words are permitted and ever thinner dictionaries are being published, each having less words than the previous edition.
The idea being that the less words that people can speak, the less room there is for dissension. Independent thinking has also being outlawed in Oceania. The Ministry of Love’s undercover ‘Thought Police‘ clandestinely watch silently always looking out for potential rebels. However, this is not the only form of monitoring. Every home is being watched by ‘Big Brother‘ as part of a comprehensive surveillance system.
‘You visibly feel the quiet desperation as he etches his way towards oblivion.’
During the course of his work, Winston discovers what is really going on in Oceania. He also happens to fall in love with a like-minded girl called Julia. Reality and fiction gets dangerously clouded as Winston embarks on a journey he will never forget.
First off, the acting is immense. There could not be a more competent actor to capture the sheer horror of the lives the inhabitants of 1984 lead. John Hurt, who is masterful in understatement, plays the lead character, Winston Smith. You visibly feel the quiet desperation as he etches his way towards oblivion.
Years of being moulded into little more than robots has left its toll on the people of Oceania. Slowly their humanity is being leeched out of them by the powers that be. The acting powerfully demonstrates this. All of the actors are remarkably restrained, particularly Richard Burton, who is brilliant as the megalomaniacal O’Brien.
‘In a harrowing scene, torture is revealed to be what it is – a manifestation of your worst fears.’
Many people have commented on the presience of Orwell’s vision and this film faithfully captures the look and feel of the book.
However, it must be said that today’s modern world has nothing in common with the filmic world of 1984, aesthetically speaking anyway. When one scratches below the surface all types of similarities begin to emerge.
One glaringly obvious similiarity is the increasing watering down of journalism. Press releases are increasingly replacing journalistic impartiality and progranda is starting to replace truth. However, this differs from Orwell’s model in that the news and media coverage is increasingly entertainment-driven rather than the workings of conspiratorial powers.
The increasing erosion of civil liberities by governments in the wake of recent terrorist activities is frightingly akin to 1984. If anybody is under the illusion that torture isn’t a human rights violation this film certainly readdresses this perception. In a harrowing scene, torture is revealed to be what it is – a manifestation of your worst fears.
Be very aware that this film is not for everyone. Orwell’s dystopian vision is at times very difficult to watch. However, it does act as a warning to us all. An all-powerful government combined with a pacifist public led to Orwell’s 1984. This is a potent and dangerous combination.