Introduction: My Introduction to Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 has become a novel that I enjoy re-reading. My relationship with this book has changed over the years. From being an angry fifteen-year-old rebel without war that hated to be preached at to an artist and teacher that thrives in creativity and pushes for the individuals I teach to find their voices. Lately, there have been things that have subjected Education to question the novels being read which is ringing true from Bradbury's point-of-view. As young scholar, I felt this book was hitting me in the head to be different, but for an aspiring artist, this was something I did not need anyone to tell me. It was taken personally as my own charge in life for myself to be the best independent artist I could be. After a few bad choices and missteps in life, I became an older college student that had to humble himself and re-read this book again due to an assignment. There was another great awakening for knowledge within myself, spoiler alert, as Montag question the fabric of his viewed reality. The book unlocked a clearer understanding that I just did not understand at 15. Fifteen years or so later, I am working with the novel trying to enlighten the future minds of the day. Take a moment and journey with me on Caliph's 5 ways the book is better than the two cinematic version released. This is to not say that they are terrible. All iterations are good within its own right, but as we will discover within this article, the movies seem to hit the high notes but lose its meaning or way.
What is it?:
Fahrenheit 451, written by Ray Bradbury, is a 24th-century dystopian future where the world is not like the world as we know it. In this cold future, firemen do not put out fires, but start them. They also arrest people within the overpopulated masses for breaking the censorship laws and controlling through media manipulation. Books are outlawed in the belief that knowledge is the cause of all the unhappiness within the world. The main character's job, Montag, is to burn books and the homes of people who secretly read them. Unaware of the world around him, Montag begins to question his life, job, marriage, and beliefs when he meets his new neighbor, 17-year-old Clarisse.
This book has gone through the transference from book medium to movie medium. Just like others, when the 2018 remake with Michael B. Jordan and General Zod was released, I was excited. It had been a while since I read or even thought about the book. The movie was placed on my much-watch list. As it was viewed, something did not sit well with me. Some keynotes felt like home, but without reading the book in such a long time, the changes that were made just felt awkward from what was remember. Not all the changes were terrible, but it did bring me back to the fifteen-year-old boy who felt it was too preachy and hitting the message repeatedly on the head. Needless to say, I love each interpretation from the novel to the 1966 to 2018 version.
Fahrenheit 451 Novel:
The novel moves quickly, but if I am mistaken, it may take place over a few short day, but did have a build up. A reason for the slow build, because the relationship between Montag and Clarisse would develop rather quickly, this is the reason that the beginning of the novel takes places over time. It only becomes break-neck speed when he finally wakes up. Time isn’t on his side and neither are those watching his every step. He scrambles through his escape HOPING there is a safe place for him at the end of the tracks. The pressure that builds within those few days only ends when the BOMBS fall on the city.
2) The Mechanical Animal
The Mechanical Hound is literally a government watch dog. Its job is to sniff out human DNA, especially those reading books, and keep control of the populace. Bradbury wrote "The mechanical Hound slept but did not sleep, lived but did not live in its gently humming, gently vibrating, softly illuminated kennel back in a dark corner of the fire house." In this world, all tech is controlled by the Government and is used to track and control. Bradbury was way ahead of his time in 1953 …
3) Professor Faber
Faber is a retired English professor with whom Montag had come across in his line of work. His character represents the actual history that is not discussed in Montag’s world. Faber confesses to Montag that he watched the government take away the people's freedoms and he did nothing. Now, full of regret that his generation let this happen, he becomes alive with exhilaration at the thought of finally breaking the system.
4) Clarisse Needs to Die
A few pages into the novel, Montag meets his new neighbor Clarisse and finds her, unlike anyone he has ever met. She’s chatty, gets on with her family, and enjoys nature. This is NOT normal in this world. On that first meeting, Clarisse asks Montag, “Are you happy”? She then vanishes (her family vanishes too) and Montag's life is never the same again. Though she doesn’t make it to the end of the novel, she is never forgotten by Montag or the reader. Be like Clarisse – QUESTION EVERYTHING.
There has been a War. There is the threat of War. The War starts again. From the constant sound of bombers overhead to the final NUCLEAR BOMBS dropping on the city, War flows through every page of this book. Inner battles are fought at every step. Millie is losing her own War with reality and Montag’s internal conflicts are evident. Beatty lays down his sword in the final battle with Montag. WAR! It’s everywhere.
The Books Purpose
Ray Bradbury is an American author that was born in Waukegan, Illinois, into a family that once included a 17th-century Salem woman tried for witchcraft (National Endowment of the Arts). Fahrenheit 451 was written in 1953 on a rental typewriter in the basement of UCLA's Lawrence Clark Powel Library where he escaped from a home filled with distractions (National Endowment of the Arts). F451 is a warning of what society could become. During the 40's and 50's, McCarthyism ran rampant through the government and society. Also known as the 2nd Red Scare, this when Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin produced a series of investigation and hearings during the 1950's to expose supposed communist infiltration of various areas of the US and government (Achter). After being re-elected in 1952, McCarthy was a polarizing figure that reached his height in 1954 by having a 36 day investigation hearings in 1954 (Achter). During this era, Bradbury witness civilians and other public figures snitching or informing on others. This can be viewed in the book when Mildred informs Beatty about Montag or with any of the obscure characters that had their homes burnt because of the their libraries. Bradbury's vision of the future possessed wall viewing screens (flat screen tv's), ear shells (air pods) and other technological advances that was not around during his day. To conclude, Bradbury's work is a piece of literature that should be read by all.
Fahrenheit 451 Movie: 1966 Version:
The first iteration of the book takes happens and released in 1966. Overall the aesthetics of the film felt to line up with the book. There were flat view screens that resembled today's flat led televisions. There were the interaction mode as if someone were watching the interactive movies such as Bandersnatch or Kimmy Schmidt. The view seems to take place in a European city but without paid extras. The homes seemed to be like a village/town in the English countryside. These nuances of the film capturing the time with
1) Le Internationale
The film version has more of a European flavor – Quelle surprise! This adaptation was Truffaut’s first English language AND color film. It’s no surprise he stayed away from the Hollywood clichés. I don’t think there is a single American voice in the film. It’s not an American Society and I like that as It can be any society, at any time, anywhere.
There is so much fire in this film that you can smell it. Close-ups of burning books with flames, eating the words off their pages, are spectacular. The color red SCREAMS at you for attention against the plain, beige set. With fire comes power and Montag starts to see the destruction HE is part of – why are we killing people over words on paper? The flames that once burned FOR the system are turned on the system, as Montag’s last fire is the flaming of his boss, Beatty.
3) Linda Montag...Who?
Julie Christie plays Linda Montag. Who is Linda? Linda is the sum of their society – on pills to pick her up, and to help her sleep, she forgets her suicide attempts and is only interested in her shallow dramas. She IS willing to bend a little for her husband when she discovers he reads books. In the end, it’s too much for her and she leaves Montag. Only to be killed by the system that created her. Christie plays the character well, but really embodies Mildred from the book.
Also played by Julie Christie, Clarisse in the movie is very similar to the one from the book. The production aged her to be 20 years of age and school teacher. The choice for this is unclear. It can be fathomed by the fact that an older woman was playing her but also Linda. She has the same spunky attitude and questions everything. One of the most important scenes from the book is when Montag is questioning mortality from what was seen and must call in. Millie/Mildred (whom I will refer to as Millie) chastises Montag for being afraid to call into work. In the movie, Clarisse is having an issue, follows Montag, and corners him to get help. She is the one who calls in and pretends to be Linda to get Montage free for the day to assist her with the problem. This alteration changes the effect of the previous scene that really affects Montague and how he will deal with the upcoming change.
5) The Score
The score enhances the character's emotional journal which is composed by Bernard Herrmann (Fame for Cape Fear, Citizen Kane & Taxi Driver with several Hitchcock films). He is a master composer that fills the screen with suspense, fear, and haunting emotion.
The 1966 Movie's Purpose
Truffaut’s 1966 adaptation of the film tries to bring the book to life. As per the reasons above, it does a decent job. It tries to stay true to the book. The big elements are present while removing other vital things from book. For example, imagery is used in the movie. Eating apples is a sign of devouring knowledge. There are a few scenes within the movie that shows one firemen eating it and then Montag. Finally, in the end, there is another which symbolizes that the thirst for knowledge will continue. Everyone within this movie has vices. While some more than other, Linda is shown to be a drug addict and addict of viewing screen. The primary issues with this not being as good as the book, as stated above, the aging-up Clarisse and being played by the same actor. After watching it twice, some other papers tried to say that School Teacher Clarisse and Montag were falling for each other. A plus for the movie are the visuals. For example, the flat view screens were great to see especially when there only those CRT television. Beatty is toned down but delivers the same speeches but more as giving advice within a job and not as a warning. The best scene that was created for the film was when they were going to burn down the home. All the firemen slid down the pole. Montag eating an apple, goes back for another slice and took the stairs. Beatty asks, "The pole not good enough for you?" In a nutshell, Captain Betty tells Montag, "books have nothing to say, and novels tell stories of people who never existed. This makes people dissatisfied with their own lives. We’ve all got to be alike. The only way to be happy is to be alike.” To conclude, 1966 version is a great adaptation for someone who has never read book.
Fahrenheit 451 Movie: 2018 Version:
The 2018 version came and went but this movie made me go back and read the book. It had been a long while since I read the book in high school and from being a college freshman. Yes, that was back in 1999. Almost 20 years to the year. Michael B. Jordan had a string movies that was making him a house-hold name. Michael Shannon aka General Zod is nailing this performance of Beatty. The intelligent, sexy, but dangerous, Sophia Boutella is the legal age Clarisse that opens Montague mind. There are things that makes this adaptation similar but extremely different from the book.
In this adaptation, Montag and Beatty has more of Mentor/Mentee friendship. Beatty seems to be "grooming" Montag to be the next Captain. Montag is the all star firemen. Beatty uses Montag as a sparring partner to train the other firemen. They seem to be good friends which is why it seems such a betrayal when Montag begins to question and read. Beatty tries to convince his friend to come off that ledge, but Montague takes the jump.
Clarisse within this adaptation is of aged woman and not some "Crazy in the head" teen. It is not remembered how they met, but Clarisse is still the catalyst for Montage. As much as I teach this novel, it never fails that the pupils feel that there is a love affair between Montag and Clarisse. This adaptation fully provides what the people want. Which leads me to the next point...
3) Where is Millie?
Montag is a young single superstar for the fire department. Huge difference from the book is that he is not married. He lives alone. There is Yuxie, or Alexa, that he talks to but is monitored by the Government. Yuxie reminds Montag to take these drops that subdues him. It is only until he removes the eye drops that he begins to see clearly. Without Millie, it paves the way for Clarisse.
4) Captain Beatty
Michael Shannon, aka General Zod, provides a strong performance as Beatty. Although, he is always has a face of the villain, he seems to really care for Young and Rising Fireman, Montag. He trains him. Chooses him to lead the missions. Give demonstrations. Beatty really brings out Montag's charisma. It is only when he sees and understand that Montag is heading down the road to the Dark Side (as he would put it) is when he tries to coach him and mentor him back. Is he really the bad?
In this utopian society, the populous is sedated each day. Before going to sleep, they drop these eye drops into their eyes. This is to help erase memories. It is not until Montag stop taking his drops is when his journey begins.
The largest difference between is the use of Yuxie. Yuxie is the all-seeing-Alexa that helps reminds the people when take the drops, schedule, and social media posts. Yuxie can be turned off, but it is believed that it will cause an alarm.
The 2018 Movie's Purpose
The 2018 film was something that I was excited about, once I noticed it on Netflix. There are plenty of things that are great about this film. It has gone through a serious upgrade in the tech department. They have earphones that look like airpods and the view screens are like view holograms that can be accessed. Michael Shannon rocked this part and he has become one of my favorite actors to play villains. He made me laugh as General Zod but that made me love the character even more. It made him scary to me. The stoic pillar of Beatty's portrayal was broken by his mentorship with Montag and felt by Montag's betrayal. Purified By fire!!! The areas of the let down within this film is the removal of Montag's marriage, the aging up of Clarisse, make Clarisse and Montag have a relationship while she is apart of the resistance. It was kind of like a marriage of the 1966 move and 53 book. Michael B. Jordan was fantastic as he could be but the movie as a whole needed work. Those changes made Montag choices felt hollow. The point of young Clarisse is that the most dangerous things come in innocent packages. She was just a young girl who had a curiosity about the world. That child wonder is infectious. Aging her up, makes the it looks like he was only moved by his love affair. Although the loneliness is there, but in the book he was alone while be married, alone at his work, and alone in life but it wasn't until the young girl made him feel like he mattered. The 2018 film provides this but Montag is the self medicating person who is alone. It was not until the interest of a woman wakes him up. In comparison, the book hits harder especially when Montag can no longer find her, it sends him into pool of despair. In this world, the punishment for breaking the rule is harsher by eliminating your identity and your entire punishment viewed for the world. Everything is based on your fans. The living books wanted to spread knowledge but comes at a technological advancement. It all comes down to Beatty v Montag with an ending that is very different from the book.