Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ignorance Is Strength

I'm sort of tinkering with the layout on my blog.  I'm not a huge computer guru or HTML person, so my skills and interest in these things is pretty limited.  I just want an easy to use layout, and something that looks fairly aesthetic, and I'd be pretty happy.

 The other day I watched the film Nineteen Eighty-Four, starring John Hurt in the title role of Winston Smith, Richard Burton (his last film, I believe) as O'Brien, and Suzanna Hamilton as Julia.  It's based on the George Orwell book of the same title.  The first film adaptation was  in 1955 in the wake of a successful BBC TV production in 1954 by Nigel Kneale, it starred Edmond O'Brien and Michael Redgrave. I have not seen the first movie from 1955, but  I really enjoyed the remake, ironically made in 1984.  I don't know why it has taken me this long to see this movie other than I may have seen the trailers to the film and knew it to be a bleak, dystopian film, so it's rather depressing, but I'm not opposed to that type science fiction.  In fact it's one of my favorite offshoots of the SF genre.  I also have enjoyed the Planet of the Apes films, Mad Max, and more recently The Road and Children of Men.  The director, for the remake was Michael Radford, and he got the story and look to it right--the right atmosphere, the feel of that society, also the right paranoia that might exist in such a totalitarian government.

There are no high tech props, CGI, or laser effects in this film.  There's just enough special effects to convey the atmosphere, and really 1984 comes down to a human drama.  How would a person, like Winston Smith,  act and react having lived in a society before everything went down the drain?  He grew up in a time before all the world turned into madness and constant wars, and his mind recalls bits and pieces of that earlier life, yet Big Brother, and the government do everything to wipe away the past, and present their own brainwashed history. 

Wilson Smith is a minor bureaucrat within the totalitarian state known as Airstrip One (Britain).  He rebels against the Thought Police, and in his time away from work, at home, he starts a diary.  Why, he's not totally sure, perhaps just to keep his sanity, I suspect.  The world is in a three-sided war between Airstrip One (or Oceanian), Eurasia, and Eastasia.  Food and supplies is in short supply, you are constantly streamed propaganda thru telescreens, which the normal population cannot shut off or turn off completely, language is being degraded into a jargon known as "Newspeak" in which it is impossible to criticize the regime.  Sexual impulses are immoral and condemned as such energy is better channelled into hatred and aggression towards the enemy (if indeed they exist--could their own government be bombing their own citizens?).  Public acts of execution are displayed over the telescreens and in pubic forums, where you can take your children for viewing.  It's a grim world.

Orwell does a good job at getting a grip on how this world is set up and maintained.  A lot of the words have opposite meaning such as: War is peace, Freedom is slavery, and Ignorance is strength.  There are four Ministries: The Ministry of Truth, which Winston works for (rearrange facts, news articles and history), The Ministry of Peace (concerns itself with war), Ministry of Plenty (for supplies and they are always in short supply), and the worst one, Ministry of Love (concerned with law and order ie. police state).  He describes the Ministry of Love as the really frightening one, a place without windows.  I think the reason Orwell creates his story this way is to create this paranoia atmosphere wherein his characters are oppressed and don't know what to think.  The only escape is within their own thoughts, which are constantly being assaulted by Big Brother or death.

In the bleak environment Winston meets Julia.  At first he hates her, along with most people he comes into contact with, but over time they form a bonding relationship.  I was impressed by the film and started reading the book.  The style of the book is eloquently written.  It is a bleak world for sure, but there are passages of environmental beauty as well.  In one dream sequence Orwell writes, "In was an old rabbit-bitten pasture, with a foot track wandering across it and a molehill here and there.  In the ragged hedge on the opposite side of the field the boughs of the elm trees were swaying very faintly in the breeze, their leaves just stirring in the dense masses like women's hair. Somewhere near at hand, though out of sight, there was a clear, slow-moving stream where dace were swimming in the pools under the willow tree."

It seems like the John Hurt version of the film follows pretty close to the vision of the book.  So far 1984 hasn't come out on Blu-Ray DVD, but I suspect it will at some point in time.

If interested in the remade version, you can find it online here, but I'm sure you can find a version elsewhere if you search around on Google.  There is also the BBC television production over on Youtube if interested. 

Who controls the past, controls the future.  Who controls the present controls the past.


At 6:54 PM, Blogger SFF said...

That's a very interesting film and book. It has been a long time since I have seen 1984. It was in a theatre when it first came out. I was younger and didn't fully appreciate the film. I suspect I would appreciate it much more now.

I'd like to see that Blu-Ray happen one day.

Liked the fact it inspired you to read the book. It sounds good.

Another great book with that kind of flow of descriptive scenery is Richard Adams' Watership Down if you've never read it or seen the accompanying film. Both are excellent.

Btw, I actually sat across from a table that John Hurt was sitting at while in Ireland on vacation at a fish and chip shop. He was sitting right there in Ballycotton. I couldn't believe it and I didn't have the courage to tell him how much I love his movies. I saw him later that night at a nearby pub.

Oh and funny enough, and this wasn't intentional, but John Hurt actually is the voice of the main character in Watership Down the film. That is funny.

Great work here at El-Vox

At 10:18 PM, Blogger El Vox said...

Thanks Sci-Fi Fanatic. I like quite a few John Hurt films too. I doubt I've seen them all. I probably should do a Google search and see what all he's done. Of the ones I have seen though, I've enjoyed: Alien, 1984, & Elephantman. Too cool that you crossed paths with him & I know what you mean when in the presence of someone you respect--I get a bit tongue-tied as well. I have seen the animated Watership Down, but not read the book. Thanks for the comment & dropping by. I enjoy your blog as well, keep up the good work.


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