Fahrenheit 451

The film Fahrenheit 451, directed by François Truffaut and distributed by Universal Pictures is an adaption of the dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury published in 1953. The film depicts the life in the world of a dystopian society that is ruled primarily by the Firemen- who exists to ensure that there are no books in the society. Those caught with books are sent to jail. Any books that are found in searches or during raids are publicly destroyed and burned by the Firemen in order to show the rest of the society what will happen if they are caught. The Firemen rely heavily on random searches and the citizens to report if someone is known to be in possession of the forbidden fruit in this society- books!

We learn early on and throughout the film from the main character Montag and the Fire Captain- Captain, that books are the source of unhappiness for people and leave them longing for things that are impossible to achieve in their own lives. The society instead relies on the news and other television programs which are broadcasted in their homes over wall screens (modern day flat screen televisions mounted on the wall). The newspapers are not news at all but instead are comic strips filled with pictures but no words.

Throughout the film we learn more about the cause of the destruction of any and all books primarily from the things that the Captain says in conversation with the main character Montag. We learn the following about the harsh nature of books and the societies view on them:

  • They make people unhappy about their own lives
  • They make people want their lives to be something they cannot be
  • There is nothing good in books and we can expect to gain nothing from them
  • He criticizes the philosophers and the fact that the work of philosophers is all contradictory
  • The Captain criticizes biographies and autobiographies- saying the authors only want to satisfy their own vanity- they are looking to stand out from the crowd
  • Reading is a form of separating people and a way of creating inequality

The main character slowly begins to have second thoughts about the society he is living in and does the unthinkable- he reads a book! After this he is faced with many internal challenges and comes to realize he is very unhappy with his own life and his wife Linda, who is very much immersed in the dystopian culture of the society. As he continues to read he no longer relates to the world he lives in. He also no longer fears the tactics of that are used by the Firemen and the Captain who are the source of government in this society. The way that they are able to control the other citizens with fear of the knowledge in books, Montag  instead is able to embrace the unknown and yearns for another way of life. Once he found knowledge in the words of the books he read he was able to break away from the fear.

In the end Montag is found out by his co-workers and is forced to escape the society he lives in. He ventures out to another town far from his own home. He heads to the town of the book people. In the new society he arrives in, which can also be seen as a dystopia, each member has committed to memory one book which they can recite from memory. This is a way to preserve the books in the world without risks of being caught or risk of the books being taken away from them. Instead they learn and memorize each book and burn the books as to not be caught. The irony is that in one society they are afraid and scared of the books and the power/knowledge within them on the other hand you have this separate alternate society where the members are slaves to books and do nothing but spend time trying to preserve them.



http://ffilms.org/fahrenheit-451-1966/  (Link to full film)