Nineteen Eighty-Four

Must-See Cinema!

Given the year of its release, there was a trite sense of inevitability about Michael Radford’s attempt to glean a movie from Orwell’s dense and moody classic. Yet, what could have sunk into gimmick filmmaking, driven by marketing rather than genuine creativity, turns out a solidly made, sternly acted, and faithful realization. This is not least down to the fact that Radford fully grasps Orwell’s modus operandi – that this is not a tale of a dreaded future at all, but a caustic parable of the writer’s present (the late ‘40s).

Poster from original release of sci-fi classic 1984Orwell’s dire sci-fi language – his indelible ‘newspeak’, ‘thoughtcrime’ and ‘Big Brother’ – sounds its warning bells as strikingly as when the novel was first published. The prophetic writer was demanding humanity be watchful of totalitarianism, be it fascism or communism, and in his dread post-Apocalyptic police state, watched over by the omnipresent Big Brother, sex has been banned, emotion ruled out, turning the populace into ‘unpersoned’ drones.

As we trace the rebellion of Winston (John Hurt) and Julia (Suzanna Hamilton), their sex crimes, and his inexorable road to the dreaded door marked 101, Orwell’s premonitions have gained a greater prescience still. He, and Radford, expose a society drugged into submission by junk television and porn, while Smith’s task of ‘rewriting’ history and channelling propaganda bears all the hallmarks of endless political spin-doctoring. Remind you of anywhere?

– Ian Nathan, Empire

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