Sunday, July 17, 2011
Fahrenheit's 451 influences
You won't believe what an hour-long nap at 6:30 p.m. can do for your evening's longevity.
Not only did I never succumb to sleep during the 2-hour-and-26-minute running time of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, but I fancied myself up for an entire other (short) movie, starting at just before midnight. I didn't finish it, but did watch a whole hour before finishing up this morning.
It was totally unpremeditated: Francois Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451, for the second time. I can't remember whether we had it in our streaming queue because I put it there, or because my wife did and wanted to watch it with me. But there are lots of movies out there, and I decided there were other movies I could watch with her.
As I was watching, not only was I reminded of how great it is, but of how many other films it may have influenced in one way or another. (Topic: Were these other films influenced by Truffaut's movie, or Ray Bradbury's original book? Discuss.)
Okay, so there aren't 451, but there are 4 or 5:
1) The Lives of Others (2006, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck). The 2006 best foreign film Oscar winner concerns an Eastern German Stasi captain who's charged with ferreting out suspected traitors who may threaten the state. His dogmatic principles are ultimately thawed when he spies on a pair of artists for an extended period of time. Although the activities of the firemen in Fahrenheit 451 are much more overt -- they arrive at domiciles with plenty of pomp and circumstance, openly seizing and burning the contraband books -- Fahrenheit's central figure is also an operative of the state who loses his belief in the big-brother methods of his government, in large part due to his interactions with a woman he suspects of being a book owner.
2) Equilibrium (2002, Kurt Wimmer). Wimmer's film consists of a more direct homage to Fahrenheit 451, as it portrays a future world where emotions are forbidden. In fact, law-abiding citizens take a regular regimen of mood-controlling drugs, hence the title. In this society, anything that inspires emotion, which includes works of art of any kind, is banned. That's the reason given for why the books are verboten in Fahrenheit -- that they agitate people too much emotionally. In Equilibrium, Christian Bale plays an enforcement agent who's charged with rooting out those who oppose the state, must like Oskar Werner's Montag in Fahrenheit. He too sees his resolve crumble due to his interactions with a beguiling woman (Emily Watson).
3) The Book of Eli (2010, Allen & Albert Hughes). If you don't want a "surprise" near the end of either Fahrenheit 451 or The Book of Eli revealed, skip this one and go on to the next. For those citizens who oppose the book banning in Fahrenheit, but also want to stay out of jail, they have a novel (no pun intended) method of keeping books alive in a form other than physical: They commit them to memory, and "become" the book. Love that concept -- in fact, Eli screenwriter Gary Whitta seemed to love it too. The big secret (one of two, actually -- I won't reveal the controversial and somewhat dubious second secret) of Whitta's mysterious protagonist, Eli (Denzel Washington), is that he has committed the Bible to memory, in the hopes of reciting it for eventual republishing in this post-apocalyptic world devoid of the written word.
4) Don't Look Now (1973, Nicolas Roeg). When I studied Roeg's masterpiece Don't Look Now during my first film class in high school, my film teacher emphasized the fact that this odd mystery set in Venice has at least a small amount of the color red in every single shot. I'd have to watch it again, but I think that's correct -- every single shot. It's the main detail about the movie that's stuck with me in the probably 18 years since I last saw it. Well, when I watched Fahrenheit 451 this time, and herd Roeg's name in the cast as the cinematographer (marvelously, the written word is banned even in terms of the film's credits, which are read aloud), I put two and two together. Fahrenheit 451 is a film with a ton of red in it, most notably the ominous truck that carries the firemen on their calls, as well as the firehouse from which they originate. As Roeg's film came seven years later, I have to wonder if his use of the color red in Don't Look Now was a seed that had been germinating since he shot Truffaut's film.
Okay, there were four, not five. Actually, I'm sure there are a ton more. But this is already more of a blog post than I ever thought I'd get to write on a Saturday morning while on daddy duty.