1984 reviewed

How time flies. My last post was on November of the previous year. I have since consumed a reasonable number of films – some of them at the cinema . For instance, I viewed Captain Phillips on November, three other releases in December & 1 apiece for the past two months. The latest offering that I saw at the movies was The wolf of Wall Street. Elysium – the last review that I have posted – was released six months ago. Of course, this is still a fledlging initiative, so posting more stuff out here is surely the best approach.

So here it is. Perhaps you’ve read the book? George Orwell’s 1984 is, by the sound of it, a stupendous read. However, my focus – in line with this site’s scope – will be on the film adaption c. 1984. The familiarity of this production might be quite lost on members of later generations (read: Y and Z). Unless of course you’re as open-minded as me in terms of movie consumption. A couple of weeks back, I was able to allocate some time for watching this feature.  The basic premise of 1984 would not be obscure to many. The picture deals with themes of privacy and power in a technocracy, where every move is under surveillance of the omnipresent Big Brother. The culture of secrecy endures as various characters struggle to overturn the system. This is a society where romantic associations are outlawed, where simple pleasures are banned and lives are dedicated in service to a veiled power. The two protagonists – O’Brien and Julia – attempt to subvert this bleak routine – which they do for a while. Their bond is in stark opposition to the totalitarian authority that they face each passing day. They wear masks in trying to be unremarkable, faceless pawns in a board where everyone is nemesis.

I was drawn by the film in the bond between the couple, more than anything. Their connection is inspiring and their navigation of the status quo is charming. I was impressed both by the veteran Richard Burton (in his last role) and the youthful Suzanna Hamilton (Julia). Their tactics in the face of poverty and duress as well as their constant efforts to keep their relationship a secret lit a fire inside me. There is little else as dainty as having one more soul out there – and that alone is priceless. If you are the last man on earth, what will you do? Would you surrender everything that you believed in? For one person? I dislike giving spoilers, so you have to find out the fate of these lovers. However, their on-screen chemistry was undeniable and painted a novel and eloquent picture.

Seeing 1984 as just a love story or better yet, as a psychological thriller, is sadly unfulfilling. One has to incorporate the metanarrative circling Orwell’s time during the text’s publication in order to gain a fuller understanding. This futuristic book was released in 1948, a time of immense challenges. The second World War had just laid waste to everyone’s front yard and all involved were picking up the pieces in the aftermath. The time was one of poverty, unrest and hopelessness. The world was still karate chopped under imperial rule, although the end of colonialism had commenced. Communism was at large and there was no doubt that a ticking time bomb was aground. World War III was an imminent possibility that lurked behind the facade of diplomacy. These were the conditions that faced Orwell as he penned the classic. Thus, there was little surprise that these finger prints were just ubiquitous in his work. Orwell’s creativity in manufacturing a fragile world is admirable and I am in awe of the way he cleaves so purposefully to the themes. I had ample joy in both devouring and dissecting the movie, or as both viewer and critic. The soundtrack was likewise def, in my opinion, and added flavour to the visual feast. I would highly recommend this film, both for the artistic merit as well as the visceral ingenuity. I sometimes tend to disregard period films since they could be a little slow, but this one has strength in timing and hits the mark spot-on.

****1/2

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