{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fahrenheit 451

Apparently based on a futuristic novel by the same name, Fahrenheit 451, is about something else, and that is beyond love of books. The film sets its mood and tone right in this simple dialogue:

Boss: What does Montag do with his day off
Montag: Not very much sir, Mow the lawn.
Boss: And what if the law forbids that ?
Montag: Just watch it grow, Sir.

This is what a law-loving Boss, asks , our hero Montag, on the eve of his promotion, probably to gaze the morality and servility of the youngman. Montag, a fireman of the time to come , is very good at his duty of finding and burning books. He belongs to the times, ruled by a government that thinks books are root of all evil and sorrow and the act of reading them, sheer perversity and it gives our book-loving director an alibi to put the best of the books to flames and a certain point a book-loving woman also to the fire who refuses to be parted away from her books, a classic 'book as life' metaphor.

In a seemingly happy and definitely dormant society, people caress themselves in the subway trains, not because they are narcissistic but all the normal social contacts are dead, and to add to the seclusion, they are addicted to television to an alarming level. There are shows where you are made to think that you are part of them, there are shows to make the whole alien population a family and when I am saying all this it actually doesn't seem to be too distant, too futuristic, and with a little bit of extrapolation one can suggest that the whole set-up is already existing. In todays world we may not killing books in flesh, not we are certainly burning real books in spirit. The futuristic world that Truffaut paints is stark and cold in its boundaries, people inside their houses stick to their wall-tvs and become that virtual reality. When someone asks a lady how do the firemen find out which household has books, the lady looks up and shows the few houses that don't have the antennas, a metaphor of a social and mental divide.

The film has lot of Hitchcock effect, there is a dream sequence which reminds of Vertigo and the background music is also by Bernard Herrmann, who was a usual collaborator with Hitchcock. Also, in the spirit of the film, the titles are spoken and to make people really long to see the written text like the people of the genX where the film is set in, first printed words are shown only after 40 min of the movie where Montag reads the first paragraph of Dickens' David Copperfield -- David is born as the clock strikes 12 and so do our hero.

Fahrenheit 451 works as a cautionary tale in two ways, the first is about our quest for happiness and comfort and where it can lead us to and second its about the constant effort to check our liberties and how our passions will always find ways to break those checks and shackles, and more importantly the amalgam of the two, how we are forced to sacrifice our liberties for day dreams of comfort and happiness.


Indrajith said...

"Lady looks up and shows the few houses that don't have the antennas, a metaphor of a social and mental divide."

Where came the divide I dont understand. Otherwise a good post.

anurag said...

Those who don't have TVs (antennas) must be into books, that is the mental divide. and why they don't have TVs is may be because of their socia-economic condition. Also there is a reference in movie that a general perception by the people in that time is that all the houses are fire-proof ( and thats why firemen are into book burning) but our hero finds that still there are houses that are not fire-proof, again a hint of social and economical divide, and more than that people are happy with their comfort and a psuedo euphoria created by the govermnent that all is well. Hope it clarifies.