Thursday, November 25, 2010

Movie Review: 1984

With no work for 5 days, I managed to hit up my netflix instantque to catch up. I passed on the Monica Bellucci movies, Dexter season 2, and settle on 1984. Orwell's masterpiece is one of my favorite novels of all time. I had seen bits of the movie but never the whole thing.

Despite minor differences here and there, the film 1984 is one of the closest adaptations of a novel I have ever seen. Not just in actual plot points and characters, but in the mood and atmosphere. Supposedly, Orwell's widow would not sign off on a movie adaptation unless there was a promise to not use flashy special effects. I think this helped the film. Oceania is not a totalitarian super state with technological advancements that suppress the people. It is a totalitarian state that employs communism and a constant state of war to the nth degree which fails in every way to provide for its people. It is post-WW2 Soviet Russia with even less success. The lack of special effects and use of disgusting sets, poor make up and Godfather lighting all create a mood of depression, oppression and despair.

Special recognition should be given to John Hurt's portrayal of Winston Smith, the protagonist. Part of his success in this film is just that gloomy appearance Hurt just happens to have. Winston starts his diary by explaining that he has committed thoughtcrime and thoughtcrime is death so he is already a dead man. He is a character that knows his future doom and has no real hope. Even when he is intimate and feels love, he wonders if there truly was a time where that was ordinary. Hurt's resigned depression fits the character so well. I personally loved when he finally gets down with Julia the blank face he holds while explaining that he hates any purity and wants everything corrupted. It's not really a seductive explanation of why he likes sex, but it fits very well with his character. Winston is the everyman, and you have to connect with him to get through the depressing story. Hurt does a wonderful job in the film, and his story arc resonates with viewers.

This is a depressing film. It is entertaining. If you loved the book, do see this film. It is a pretty faithful adaptation of the novel. It breathes visual life into the characters and settings. If you compare this film to the cinema in your mind that runs while you read a book, you will not be upset.

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