Who controls the past controls the future, who controls the present controls the past
Based on the book 1984 by George Orwell, this film offers the viewer a glimpse into the life of Winston Smith as a member of this futuristic dystopia, Oceania. As a member of the outer party, Winston holds a government job rewriting history at the Ministry of Truth. Although the viewer is unsure how Winston got to this place in Oceania, it becomes apparent quickly that he thinks beyond what most other members of the superstate are capable of. Winston becomes close with Julia, another outer party member who also thinks for herself. They end up renting a room in the Proles’ neighborhood from a man who actually is part of the thought police. Winston and Julia get caught because a picture frame in the room had a camera behind it – in the scene, the frame falls down and we see Big Brother’s face and hear a voice commanding them to stop what they’re doing. Both go through torture and return back to their lives after they are deemed fixed by O’Brien, an inner party member.
Oceania is broken into three social classes with “Big Brother” as the omnipresent, revered ruler. The Inner Party is the ruling class that has the most freedom to do as they please and they seem to be the real eyes of Big Brother. The Outer Party is held under the most rigid ruling. They are supposed to be constantly patriotic and obsessed with Big Brother. They are ALWAYS watched by the television in their room, they are subject to daily worshiping of Big Brother and daily hate of Goldstein, a former party member who wrote a book exposing the realities of the state. The Inner Party may be using Goldstein as a possible scape goat that is used by the party to unite them against a common enemy. The Proles are the biggest group and are seen as the work force that takes care of the all the meaningless labor. The Inner Party keeps the proles busy by allowing them to engage in behaviors that are forbidden to the outer party – although the outer party is so brainwashed, it seems that Winston and Julia are the only ones who truly realize this.
There is never a time that the viewer sees Big Brother in person and it makes me wonder if he even really exists OR if he is a symbol created by the highest, ruling class – the Inner Party.
Winston Smith: Does Big Brother even exist?
O’Brien: Of course he exists.
Winston Smith: No, I mean… does he exist like you or me?
O’Brien: You do not exist.
Historical context: When Orwell wrote this book in 1949, he most likely envision this to be the world in 1984 in the Soviet Union. Many elements of Big Brother are compared to Stalin and the USSR. The enemy of the state, Goldstein and his book, are compared to Trotsky and his book denouncing Stalin and the USSR. The thought police and vaporizing (erasing oceania traitors from history) are similar to the death sentence of any one in the USSR who went against the party and how they were literally erased from history.
Compare/Contrast: After reading We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, I am reminded of various aspects of the movie, 1984. In class on October 23, Professor Muzzio said that Orwell has said he was inspired by this book and that is why there are similarities. For instance, Big Brother in 1984 & The Benefactor in We are omnipresent rulers. People in both societies are also closely watched (mostly the outer party in 1984) – In 1984, they have big brother on all of their televisions that cannot be shut off and there are cameras hidden everywhere. There are also thought police constantly paying attention to their every move. In We, citizens live in glass apartment buildings so that they can be watched by the secret policy and the guardians unless there is a sex appointment. Both Winston and D-503 have important jobs within their societies – Winston works for the Ministry of Truth and actually has to rewrite history. D-503 is the head engineer that is working on the Integral space ship. Both characters do fall in love which leads them to break the rules of their society (which regulates sex in different ways). Both also keep journals that they are writing for unknown readers. I see 1984 as more of a hopeless society especially through Winston’s eyes. To D-503, it seems that One State is a cohesive group and although he questions it at points, he ultimately stays loyal to his society when he betrays his lover to the Benefactor.
Five elements essential to creating the perfect dystopian society, like Oceania.
Get rid of anything enjoyable for the people you want to control: Get rid of it all! Delicious food and real coffee, books, real friendships, leisurely sex, orgasms… get rid of it all. While the Inner Party can most likely enjoy these things, the Outer Party (Winston’s group) is completely deprived of them. A group of people cannot be controlled if they are not a little deprived, a little dumb and a little empty inside.
Thought Police & Thought Crimes: As an outer party member, you should be acting and thinking in a certain way. What you believe is always wrong if it goes against what Big Brother says. For example, Winston has to rewrite part of Oceania’s history after they change allies in their war, which may or may not be completely real as well. After a rewrite of history, it must be accepted that this is truth and truth is only what Big Brother tells us is truth.
Be in a constant state of war: War is meant to be continuous and victory is not possible. According to Goldstein’s book (which Winston secretly has hidden within the pages of the Newspeak dictionary), war is meant to keep a state’s people are the brink of starvation – It is meant to keep the structure of society in tact.
Get rid of the ability for people to use words: By the time the viewer enters into the world of Oceania, the state is already on its 10th edition of the Newspeak dictionary. Each edition becomes smaller as the state tries to control language in an effort to control the people.
Syme: Beautiful thing, the destruction of words.
Winston Smith: So, The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect?
Syme: The secret is to move from translation, to direct thought, to automatic response. No need for self-discipline. Language coming from here
Syme: , not from here
Create a common enemy that is blamed for EVERYTHING: Goldstein – the hated traitor that once was a member of the inner party before he committed possible thought crime or rebelled against Big Brother. Throughout the film, there are public apologies displayed on the television screen… the last one being Winston’s… and they all admit to reading Goldstein’s teachings and betraying the state like he did.
4 thoughts on “Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984).”
Winston rewrites the past to control the future. One of the things that confused me was that the people of Oceania heard news every day and even if Winston is changing the past weren’t there people who remembered what happened in the past so that when they hear the “news” they might question it’s truth? I agree with the comparison with Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We. There are many similarities with always being watched by a higher power. The five elements for a dystopian society was an interesting addition to your post. I never though about creating a dystopian society because my group decided to construct a utopian one.
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