Fahrenheit 451

An underrated film, perhaps because it is less science fiction than a tale of 'once upon a time'. Where Ray Bradbury's novel posited a strange, terrifyingly mechanised society which has banned books in the interests of material well-being, Truffaut presents a cosy world not so very different from our own, with television a universal father-figure pouring out reassuring messages, and the only element of menace a fire-engine tearing down the road. A bright, gleaming childhood red, the engine is like a reminder of toyhood days; and as Werner's fireman hero goes about his task of destroying literature, his growing awareness of the almost human way in which books curl up and die in the flames gradually assumes the dimensions of a quest for a legendary lost treasure - movingly glimpsed as he slowly and painfully deciphers the title-page of David Copperfield. Here the rich, nostalgic pull of the past wins out over technocracy, and the film ends, as it began, with a scene lifted right out of time: a wonderful shot of the rebels - each dedicated to the preservation of a literary masterpiece by committing it to memory - wandering in contented, idyllic exile by the edge of a glitteringly icy lake.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Duration: 112 mins

Cast and crew

Director: François Truffaut
Screenwriter: François Truffaut, Jean-Louis Richard
Cast: Oskar Werner
Julie Christie
Cyril Cusack
Anton Diffring
Bee Duffell
Jeremy Spenser
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