Fahrenheit 451


1h 52m 1966
Fahrenheit 451

Brief Synopsis

Adaptation of Ray Bradbury's futuristic novel about a society where literature is outlawed.

Film Details

Genre
Adaptation
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Jan 1966
Premiere Information
New York opening: 14 Nov 1966
Production Company
Anglo-Enterprise Film Productions; Vineyard Productions
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures
Country
Great Britain
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (New York, 1953).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 52m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

In a future society all reading matter is forbidden, and the fire department must seek out citizens who disobey this edict and burn their books. Widescreen televisions in the homes and loudspeakers all over the city control the populace through propaganda. Two such citizens are Montag, a fireman whose efficiency has won him a recommendation for promotion, and his contented wife, Linda, who watches the propaganda screen all day. One day, while riding the monorail, Montag meets Clarisse, a young schoolteacher who bears a striking resemblance to his wife. Clarisse questions the reasons for book-burning and, for the first time, raises doubts in Montag's mind. Upon arriving home, Montag finds his wife unconscious from taking an overdose of sleeping pills, and after she receives a complete blood transfusion, Montag begins to change. After seeing a woman choose to die with her books, Montag starts bringing books home and secretly reading them at night. His disillusionment with society increases when Clarisse is dismissed from her job. One evening he reads from David Copperfield to some of Linda's guests, and their disgust makes him realize that he must leave his job. Before he has a chance to resign, however, Linda denounces him, and his last mission with the fire department turns out to be in his own home. Montag aims the flame torch at his colleagues and escapes from the city to the hideout of the "Book People," a group of outcasts who preserve books by committing them to memory. Clarisse, having fled from the firemen a few days before, is also there. Now determined that literature will not die, Montag begins memorizing the tales of Edgar Allan Poe.

Film Details

Genre
Adaptation
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Jan 1966
Premiere Information
New York opening: 14 Nov 1966
Production Company
Anglo-Enterprise Film Productions; Vineyard Productions
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures
Country
Great Britain
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (New York, 1953).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 52m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

Fahrenheit 451 - Fahrenheit 451


Ray Bradbury's visionary science fiction novel, Fahrenheit 451, depicted a future world in which books are forbidden and their concealment punishable by death. Every household is monitored by floor to ceiling television screens delivering brain-washing government jargon and the populace, except for an anonymous few, have become media-controlled puppets, anesthetized and passive. It obviously had great potential as a science fiction film. At least French filmmaker Francois Truffaut thought so when he first purchased the novel in 1962. Later he sold the rights to Lewis Allen, an American producer, with plans to make the film in 1964 but it wasn't until 1966 - two years after he completed La Peau Douce (The Soft Skin) - that he was able to bring his vision to the screen.

From the beginning, Fahrenheit 451 (the title refers to the temperature at which paper burns) would prove to be Truffaut's most troubled and difficult production, a fact that is born out in his personal correspondence to friends and associates. In one missive (published in Francois Truffaut: Letters (Faber & Faber)), he debates the film's box office potential: "Pessimistic forecast: a nation getting ready to say yes to De Gaulle is a nation that doesn't give a sh#t whether its culture disappears or not, and therefore doesn't give a sh#t about Fahrenheit. Optimistic forecast: books are solid, visible and tangible objects; everyone knows them, everyone has them, buys them, lend and borrows them. Therefore, everyone is capable of being moved by a film that shows books burning in extreme close-up." Truffaut's correspondence also reveals actors under consideration for the lead - Charles Aznavour (who appeared in Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player, 1960) and Terence Stamp - and the director's rejection of Gore Vidal as a possible screenwriter for the film. But some suggestions came to fruition. "Lewis Allen had the brilliant idea of having Linda and Clarisse (in Fahrenheit) played by the same actress with two different hair-dos. That would solve all the problems that have been plaguing me for so long about their figures, their ages, their looks, etc. I gave my approval to the idea and, my goodness, how wonderful it would be if it were Julie Christie." The latter actress did, in fact, win the dual role and for the lead character of Montag, a dedicated fireman who begins to question his destruction of books, Truffaut's friend and star of his earlier feature, Jules and Jim (1962), was cast. Truffaut also decided to adapt the novel himself with assistance from Jean-Louis Richard.

It was an uphill battle from the beginning though and Truffaut was eventually overwhelmed by the challenges. For one, Fahrenheit 451 was his first film in English, a language he did not speak. It was also his first color film and involved the creation of some complicated special effects. Adding an extra layer of aggravation was Oskar Werner who disagreed with Truffaut's interpretation of his character. Werner wanted to emphasize the brutal, fascist side of Montag while Truffaut insisted on focusing on the fireman's vulnerable nature. The situation became so strained between them that Truffaut resorted to using Werner's double for some scenes and in many cases reducing the actor's on-screen time in the editing room (which accounts for some of the discontinuity in Montag's appearance).

Eagerly awaited by science fiction fans, Fahrenheit 451 was bound to be a disappointment for those who had read the book. Not only did Truffaut deliberately play down the futuristic aspects in terms of visual design but he omitted some of the most memorable aspects of the book such as the Mechanical Hound which tracked down subversives and killed them with lethal injections. But the filmmaker never set out to make a standard sci-fi thriller. As he stated in Truffaut on Truffaut, "Many science fiction works can be considered fairy tales for adults" and he aimed "to film fantastic things as if they were everyday, everyday things as if they were fantastic, and to mingle one with the other." In this regard, the film is extremely successful, combining sixties fashions with antique telephones and space age monorails into a strangely harmonious but timeless universe.

Nevertheless, when Fahrenheit 451 opened theatrically, critics were just as vocal about their disappointment in the film as the sci-fi fans were. Typical of the lot was Bosley Crowther of The New York Times when he wrote, "Holy Smoke! What a pretentious and pedantic production he has made of Ray Bradbury's futuristic story." Admirers of Truffaut, on the other hand, felt like he had sold out by making a big-budget Hollywood-financed film in color with an English cast. But there were a few favorable reviews such as Time's assessment: "A weirdly gay little picture that assails with both horror and humor all forms of tyranny over the mind of man...Fahrenheit 451 may not prove to be the flash point of the average moviegoer, but it should work up a gentle glow among the admirers of Director Francois Truffaut."

Seen today, the film remains a fascinating one-off in the director's career, incorporating some of his favorite interests (a love of literature) while attempting to broaden his range (shooting in color and an unfamiliar language). It's true some aspects don't work well (the Julie Christie dual role looks more like a stunt than a well-integrated concept) but here you will find some of Truffaut's most poignant images: a lovingly-photographed book bonfire devouring famous works by Jean Cocteau, Jean Genet, Henry Miller, J. D. Salinger, Cahiers du Cinema (the film magazine Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard both wrote for), and Mad magazine; the lyrical final shot in which "The Book People" wander amongst themselves in a wooded outpost, each one reciting a favorite book as the snow falls. Other distinctive touches include Bernard Herrmann's exhilarating music score, the opening credit sequence - broadcast over television antennas, Nicolas Roeg's fluid cinematography, and Cyril Cusack's witty, malevolent performance as the relentlessly duty-bound fireman.

Producer: Lewis M. Allen
Director: Francois Truffaut
Screenplay: Francois Truffaut, Jean-Louis Richard, David Rudkin, Helen Scott, Ray Bradbury (novel)
Cinematography: Nicolas Roeg
Film Editing: Thom Noble
Art Direction: Syd Cain
Music: Bernard Herrmann
Cast: Oskar Werner (Montag), Julie Christie (Linda/ Clarisse), Cyril Cusack (Captain), Anton Diffring (Fabian), Jeremy Spenser (Man With the Apple), Bee Duffell (Book Woman).
C-113m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Jeff Stafford
Fahrenheit 451  - Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 - Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury's visionary science fiction novel, Fahrenheit 451, depicted a future world in which books are forbidden and their concealment punishable by death. Every household is monitored by floor to ceiling television screens delivering brain-washing government jargon and the populace, except for an anonymous few, have become media-controlled puppets, anesthetized and passive. It obviously had great potential as a science fiction film. At least French filmmaker Francois Truffaut thought so when he first purchased the novel in 1962. Later he sold the rights to Lewis Allen, an American producer, with plans to make the film in 1964 but it wasn't until 1966 - two years after he completed La Peau Douce (The Soft Skin) - that he was able to bring his vision to the screen. From the beginning, Fahrenheit 451 (the title refers to the temperature at which paper burns) would prove to be Truffaut's most troubled and difficult production, a fact that is born out in his personal correspondence to friends and associates. In one missive (published in Francois Truffaut: Letters (Faber & Faber)), he debates the film's box office potential: "Pessimistic forecast: a nation getting ready to say yes to De Gaulle is a nation that doesn't give a sh#t whether its culture disappears or not, and therefore doesn't give a sh#t about Fahrenheit. Optimistic forecast: books are solid, visible and tangible objects; everyone knows them, everyone has them, buys them, lend and borrows them. Therefore, everyone is capable of being moved by a film that shows books burning in extreme close-up." Truffaut's correspondence also reveals actors under consideration for the lead - Charles Aznavour (who appeared in Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player, 1960) and Terence Stamp - and the director's rejection of Gore Vidal as a possible screenwriter for the film. But some suggestions came to fruition. "Lewis Allen had the brilliant idea of having Linda and Clarisse (in Fahrenheit) played by the same actress with two different hair-dos. That would solve all the problems that have been plaguing me for so long about their figures, their ages, their looks, etc. I gave my approval to the idea and, my goodness, how wonderful it would be if it were Julie Christie." The latter actress did, in fact, win the dual role and for the lead character of Montag, a dedicated fireman who begins to question his destruction of books, Truffaut's friend and star of his earlier feature, Jules and Jim (1962), was cast. Truffaut also decided to adapt the novel himself with assistance from Jean-Louis Richard. It was an uphill battle from the beginning though and Truffaut was eventually overwhelmed by the challenges. For one, Fahrenheit 451 was his first film in English, a language he did not speak. It was also his first color film and involved the creation of some complicated special effects. Adding an extra layer of aggravation was Oskar Werner who disagreed with Truffaut's interpretation of his character. Werner wanted to emphasize the brutal, fascist side of Montag while Truffaut insisted on focusing on the fireman's vulnerable nature. The situation became so strained between them that Truffaut resorted to using Werner's double for some scenes and in many cases reducing the actor's on-screen time in the editing room (which accounts for some of the discontinuity in Montag's appearance). Eagerly awaited by science fiction fans, Fahrenheit 451 was bound to be a disappointment for those who had read the book. Not only did Truffaut deliberately play down the futuristic aspects in terms of visual design but he omitted some of the most memorable aspects of the book such as the Mechanical Hound which tracked down subversives and killed them with lethal injections. But the filmmaker never set out to make a standard sci-fi thriller. As he stated in Truffaut on Truffaut, "Many science fiction works can be considered fairy tales for adults" and he aimed "to film fantastic things as if they were everyday, everyday things as if they were fantastic, and to mingle one with the other." In this regard, the film is extremely successful, combining sixties fashions with antique telephones and space age monorails into a strangely harmonious but timeless universe. Nevertheless, when Fahrenheit 451 opened theatrically, critics were just as vocal about their disappointment in the film as the sci-fi fans were. Typical of the lot was Bosley Crowther of The New York Times when he wrote, "Holy Smoke! What a pretentious and pedantic production he has made of Ray Bradbury's futuristic story." Admirers of Truffaut, on the other hand, felt like he had sold out by making a big-budget Hollywood-financed film in color with an English cast. But there were a few favorable reviews such as Time's assessment: "A weirdly gay little picture that assails with both horror and humor all forms of tyranny over the mind of man...Fahrenheit 451 may not prove to be the flash point of the average moviegoer, but it should work up a gentle glow among the admirers of Director Francois Truffaut." Seen today, the film remains a fascinating one-off in the director's career, incorporating some of his favorite interests (a love of literature) while attempting to broaden his range (shooting in color and an unfamiliar language). It's true some aspects don't work well (the Julie Christie dual role looks more like a stunt than a well-integrated concept) but here you will find some of Truffaut's most poignant images: a lovingly-photographed book bonfire devouring famous works by Jean Cocteau, Jean Genet, Henry Miller, J. D. Salinger, Cahiers du Cinema (the film magazine Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard both wrote for), and Mad magazine; the lyrical final shot in which "The Book People" wander amongst themselves in a wooded outpost, each one reciting a favorite book as the snow falls. Other distinctive touches include Bernard Herrmann's exhilarating music score, the opening credit sequence - broadcast over television antennas, Nicolas Roeg's fluid cinematography, and Cyril Cusack's witty, malevolent performance as the relentlessly duty-bound fireman. Producer: Lewis M. Allen Director: Francois Truffaut Screenplay: Francois Truffaut, Jean-Louis Richard, David Rudkin, Helen Scott, Ray Bradbury (novel) Cinematography: Nicolas Roeg Film Editing: Thom Noble Art Direction: Syd Cain Music: Bernard Herrmann Cast: Oskar Werner (Montag), Julie Christie (Linda/ Clarisse), Cyril Cusack (Captain), Anton Diffring (Fabian), Jeremy Spenser (Man With the Apple), Bee Duffell (Book Woman). C-113m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. by Jeff Stafford

Quotes

Fahrenheit four five one is the temperature at which book paper catches fire and starts to burn.
- Guy Montag
We burn them to ashes and then burn the ashes. That's our official motto.
- Guy Montag
Do you remember what you asked me the other day; if I ever read the books I burn? Remember?
- Guy Montag
Um hmm.
- Clarisse
Last night I read one.
- Guy Montag
The books have nothing to say.
- The Captain
Listen to me, Montag. Once to each fireman, at least once in his career, he just itches to know what these books are all about. He just aches to know. Isn't that so?
- The Captain

Trivia

Among the books burned by the firemen is the film journal "Cahiers du Cinema" for which director Francois Truffaut wrote. Pictured on the cover is a picture from A bout de souffle (1960), written by Truffaut. Also among the books burned is "The Martian Chronicles" and "Fahrenheit 451" itself, both written by Ray Bradbury.

Director Francois Truffaut was so eager to begin filming that he and co-writer Jean-Louis Richard wrote the screenplay before they had fully mastered English. Ultimately, Truffaut was disappointed in the awkward, stilted English-language dialogue; he was much happier with the French-dubbed version, which he supervised.

The first and only English language film for director Francois Truffaut.

Truffaut's first film in color.

The film's credits are spoken, not read, in keeping with the film's theme of destruction of reading material.

Notes

Location scenes filmed near London and in Châteauneuf-sur-Loire. Released in Great Britain in November 1966.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter November 1966

Re-released in United States on Video June 11, 1996

Released in United States November 3, 1989

Released in United States 1993

Released in United States 1999

Shown at Alliance Francaise in New York City November 3, 1989.

Based on the novel "Fahrenheit 451" written by Ray Bradbury, with illustrations by Joe Mugnaini, published in 1953 by Ballantine Books.

Released in United States Winter November 1966

Re-released in United States on Video June 11, 1996

Released in United States November 3, 1989 (Shown at Alliance Francaise in New York City November 3, 1989.)

Released in United States 1993 (Shown at AFI/Los Angeles International Film Festival (Tribute to Ray Bradbury) June 10 ¿ July 1, 1993.)

Released in United States 1999 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Tout Truffaut" April 23 - June 24, 1999.)