I’m going to start this post out with an apology – it’s been a couple years since I’ve read Fahrenheit 451, so I am working in bookish content largely by memory. If there are inaccuracies in any if my comparisons, I beseech you to let me know so I can correct them. Thanks!
I LOVE Ray Bradbury’s work and am constantly flummoxed by the choices made in adapting these books to film. There’s always a need to modernize these works and filmmakers delight in beefing up the tech that is featured in the world. It’s like the film industry is afraid that unless viewers are presented with a high-tech futuristic society, we won’t believe it’s a dystopian film. I cannot speak for everyone, but I love Bradbury specifically because his work feels like it could happen right now, today. The most effective dystopias feel possible at any moment.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when Fahrenheit 451 opened with a high tech burning scene where we follow the firefighters like reality TV stars. Guy Montag spends early moments in the film choosing his outfit for the next raid, and his AI commends him for his choice, saying something along the lines of: “Ooooo, your fans will love that!”
This is where I went on red alert. I spent a while trying to talk myself down – after all, our world has advanced considerable since Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 and its only reasonable that the filmmakers would want to compensate for that, right?
And so I persisted, but I do feel like there were a lot of departures from the source material in order to accommodate the high-tech choices the filmmakers made in their direction of this one. The acting was fine and well adapted to the film, but I just… couldn’t get behind this one. The book was charming in… you know… a burning book sort of way. The film was slow and the relationship between Clarice and Montag feels a lot different. It was incredibly forced and I never felt that transition between Fireman and rebel. It was on screen, but I didn’t believe it.
And yet, the pacing was just … taxing. I had a really hard time focusing in this one.
There is a moment when Montag walks into a hard copy library and Beatty has a bit of a speech about the dangers of ideas and why they burn books. It felt like it should have been the heart of the film, but it was laborious.
There’s also a point in the middle when there’s a grand conspiracy to upload all books on a drive the size of an atom and make them go viral? Pretty sure that wasn’t in the book?
For this one, loves? Read the book.