Fahrenheit 451, based on the classic by Ray Bradbury, adapted and directed by Ramin Bahrani
Fahrenheit 451 is such an archetypal, quintessential classic that the audiences can find references to it in the manner that masterpieces are mentioned and burned in this motion picture, one of the most recent examples being The Bookshop, wherein the protagonist sends…Fahrenheit 451 to an avid reader, who is so enthused that he wants more works by Bradbury and continues with The Martian Chronicles.
It is natural and probably welcome to have such a cornerstone adapted, perhaps multiple times, for this keeps it in the public arena, the main themes are discussed and brought to the present, a fresh view would reveal aspects that have been missed before and the public of different ages may need a different, modern perspective.
Nonetheless, the latest look at Fahrenheit 451 has not been very successful, although it may be hard to identify the main reason, since they seem to be a few, ranging from the lackluster performance of the actor in the leading role, to the supposedly modernizing changes in the story.
Evidently, this viewer may be wrong and the work of Ramin Bahrani could become the reference point and a landmark that would have future publics in awe, mesmerized and elated to watch this version of the Armageddon that books face.
In a not so distant future- judging from the design of cars, the lack of evolution around the personal assistants, which are not called Alexa or Siri anymore and other elements of this film – books would be burned for their influence is judged to be evil by the rulers of those times.
The hero is portrayed by Michael B. Jordan – an artist that may have been phenomenal in Creed, as a boxer, but seems overwhelmed, out of his depth in a role that requires sophistication, a more refined perspective, subtle work that seem to be lacking in a performance that appears strained, suggesting that the young man has pain in seeing things from the perspective of Guy Montag.
Maybe Michael Jordan, seeing as he belongs to a very different generation, used with reading –only?- from phones, has the advantage of sharing with the people from this Fahrenheit future this disregard for printed books, but at the same time, this cinefile’s impression was that he does not get why all the fuss about some printed papers.
That was an exaggeration and this criticism is probably misguided, but hey, this is a point of view that is shared by others who have seen this – disastrous?- new take, or maltreatment of such a great story, where the culprit may be the screenwriter- director, who may have asked the lead actor to do all the wrong things.
Michael Shannon is better in the role of the obnoxious, possessed, rigid, brain washed Captain Beatty, but he also acts like if someone has given him quite a few, if not all the wrong guidelines and suggestions, with the result that this brilliant artist nevertheless delivers a much better act.
Another main issue with this adaptation is that it does not solve a problem of credibility- not from the angle we saw it anyway- which lies right at the Heart of The Matter, in this case the theme of burning Printed books to eliminate them and the messages they deliver to thinking people.
It could be argued that we have already stopped thinking – look at election results in America- The Donald- Italy, with two silly leaders in control of such a great country, the Philippines, Russia and the list is alas, so long.
As for books, almost all the books of the world can he hidden and stored on a very small device already, never mind in the future, even if not in the printed form, but then, to this viewer this is a major flaw in the plot, for, once you have all the concepts, the text, multiply those devices and just wait until the crazies are gone and start printing again.
After all, the undersigned is a reader- as testimony, he has the largest number of goodreads notes for his land- and he goes about it using an ereader, which holds a whole library wall in a storage the size of a small pocketbook.
Granted, the burning of books is the Very Idea, Central to this novel and there are some changes, if minor, from the first few scenes we have Guy Montag burning the material using a postmodern flame thrower, and this has become a TV show, with interviews from the firemen, who do not extinguish fires in this dystopic future, but they are the ones who act as Fire starters.
There is a scene with a great potential, it could deliver such an emotional impact- indeed, it does in the original material (reviewed three times on the blog of this reader- cinephile, one of the notes is here: http://realini.blogspot.ro/2014/09/fahrenheit-451-by-ray-bradbury.html
In this version however, the woman who has a multitude of books in her house and decides to die along with them just gives a feeling of an outré, eerie, absurd happening, justifying to some extent the assertion of the villains that she was crazy…
Bad acting again?
Wrong guidance from the director?
This is very likely.