This is an engrossing futuristic tale of a society where all printed material is banned. In this country of the future, officials believe that people who read and are able to think for themselves are a threat to the nation where individualism is strongly discouraged. The inhabitants of this society all seem to be suffering from sensory deprivation and their only link to news and entertainment is a large television screen on the wall where broadcasts are continually transmitted to the “family”. All of the people are members of The Family. Even though they aren’t forced to watch the telecasts, they all do.
It is also a society where drugs are dispensed by the government in order to further pacify the citizens. Mop up squads roam the streets, shaving the heads of individuals whose hair they consider to be too long and to be the trait of a non-conformist.
It is the job of firemen to hunt down subversives and burn the caches of books they’ve secreted away. This movie was made long before political correctness raised its ugly head and demanded they be referred to as firefighters. If you think about it, the excesses of political correctness is one of the things this movie may be warning us about. Oskar Werner plays Montag, a devoted fireman, who meets a young woman (Clarisse) who reminds him of a thinking version of his wife Linda. When Montag is asked by Clarisse what his wife is like, he answers, “Very much like you.” This isn’t surprising since the parts of Linda and Clarisse are both played by Julie Christie.
Cyril Cusack is excellent as the Captain who has the personality of an eccentric, caring father figure but who occasionally turns into a tough, single-minded disciplinarian.
Fabian, played by Anton Diffring, is a fireman who doesn’t have much use for Montag and is out to get him whenever he can.
In this 1967 film, one can’t help wondering, if reading is banned, how did so many people learn to read? Except for a few small inconsistencies, this is an excellent movie and well worth watching. It isn’t a film for people who aren’t willing to pay attention or who demand non-stop action. With that said, the movie is more interesting if you haven’t read the novel. If you have read the book, the omissions in the movie become glaring. In the book, there is a mechanical hound at the fire station that can be programmed to track down an individual and inject them with procaine. The hound’s similarity to a trained attack dog is more than coincidental. There is also no mention in the movie of Professor Faber, a central character in the book. The war that is taking place is barely mentioned in the movie. In fact, the city is destroyed by an atomic bomb at the end of the novel but not in the movie. If you can get by all the deviations from the novel, you will enjoy the movie.
One thing worth noting in this adaptation of the Ray Bradbury novel is that the opening credits are spoken, not written. There is nothing to read throughout the film except for pages of books people are reading and books and covers while they are being burned. Even the newspaper Montag picks up is all pictures. You get to read a movie title when the film ends with “The End”.
The title of the movie comes from, as Montag puts it in one scene, “Fahrenheit four five one is the temperature at which book paper catches fire and starts to burn.”
- Oskar Werner – Montag
- Julie Christie – Linda/Clarisse
- Cyril Cusack – The Captain
- Anton Diffring – Fabian
- Jeremy Spenser – Man with the Apple
- Bee Duffell – Book Lady
- Alex Scott – “The Life of Henry Brulard” (Book Person)
- Michael Balfour – Machiavelli’s “Prince” (Book Person)
- Anna Palk – Jackie
- Ann Bell – Doris
- Caroline Hunt – Helen
- David Glover – “Pickwick Papers” (Book person)
- Gillian Lewis – TV Announcer
- Noel Davis – ‘Cousin Midge’ (TV Personality)