In the year 1984, rocket bombs and rats prey on the inhabitants of the crumbling metropolis of London. Far away on the Malabar Front, a seemingly interminable war rages against Eastasia. The Ministry of Truth broadcasts ceaselessly to the population via its inescapable network of telescreens. These devices, which pervade all aspects of peoples' lives, are also capable of monitoring their every word and action. They form part of an elaborate surveillance system used by the Ministry of Love, and its dreaded Agents, the "Thought Police", to serve their singular goal: the elimination of "thoughtcrime". Winston Smith is a Party worker, part of the vast social caste known as the "Outer Party", the rank and file of the sprawling apparatus of government. Winston works in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth, the section charged with modifying historical news archives for consistency. When by chance, Winston uncovers incontrovertible proof that the Party is lying, he embarks on a ...Written by
Director Michael Radford once said of this movie: "There are attitudes of doublethink all around us. (George) Orwell pointed it out in a very extreme form. He was writing when the world had just experienced an upheaval from the Right (Nazism), but since then we have an upheaval from the Left (Soviet Communism), and now we can see both sides of it. What I have tried to do is tread a delicate path between satire and parody, and make it clear that Orwell was offering a vision of totalitarianism derived from the world he knew. The film is not a pseudo-documentary about what might happen if the Soviets took over Britain. At the bottom, 1984 is about a human being, and that's all. Orwell was a philosopher of human decency. There are no references to anything that happened after 1948. This is, in a sense, a period movie. I have tried to make the story utterly real, although the setting is utterly unreal. Everybody behaves as normally as possible, which produces a strange, surreal effect. That's how you feel when you read the book. I think this is the first ever naturalistic science fiction movie." See more »
When Winston and Julia are together in the room upstairs for the second time, Julia asks Winston what time the clock on the wall says. He responds that it is 21 hours, or 9pm. When Julia leaves and Winston picks up the glass ball off the table, the clock behind it shows 2:30. See more »
This is our land. A land of peace and of plenty. A land of harmony and hope. This is our land. Oceania. These are our people. The workers, the strivers, the builders. These are our people. The builders of our world, struggling, fighting, bleeding, dying. On the streets of our cities and on the far-flung battlefields. Fighting against the mutilation of our hopes and dreams. Who are they?
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The movie begins with the title "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past." See more »
The original theatrical release was shown in desaturated color, enhancing the dystopian tone of the film. Later video and TV versions have been shown in truer, "natural" color. See more »
"We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness..."
Michael Radford's utterly superlative film of Orwell's famed novel may well be the greatest cinematic adaptation of a major literary source ever -- and it stands out as one of the most memorable British films of the past thirty years. Full credit is due to cinematographer Roger Deakins who shoots everything in grainy, washed-out, desaturated colors adding to the picture's atmosphere of wistful yet austere, dream-like strangeness. The modern London settings -- with their cobblestone streets, shabby, dilapidated buildings, desolate fields, rubble-strewn alleyways, and forbidding, blackened Gothic-Victorian façades and hints of minimalist fascist architecture -- resemble a Depression-era housing project after the Luftwaffe. And Dominic Muldowney's score, with its martial clarion calls, bombastic church-organ blasts, and swelling choral leitmotiv of `Oceania, 'tis for thee,' has a mixture of Wagnerian grandeur and Bach-like religiosity about it. All the while, the bizarre, mantra-like drones of the much-maligned Eurythmics soundtrack rises and falls, weaving in and out of the narrative like so many subconscious banshee wails.
Radford treats the book's premise not as a sci-fi flight of fantasy or grim prophecy but rather as the world of 1948 seen through a glass darkly -- a kind of medieval morality play for the post-totalitarian age. There is less emphasis on the novel's musty, well-worn-and-endlessly-picked-over polemical import and more focus on the stark human element, and indeed, the actors bear such uncanny resemblance to Orwell's descriptions they practically seem born for their roles.
With his quiet, brooding eloquence and haunted eyes peeking out of a gaunt, cadaverous frame like a tubercular, ashen-faced Egon Schiele figure, John Hurt is ideally cast as Winston Smith. As Julia, Suzanna Hamilton (first seen as a lovelorn dairymaid in Polanski's TESS and as the paralyzed daughter in BRIMSTONE AND TREACLE) has a serene, arresting presence and she appears as mysteriously stirring and beguiling to us as she does to Hurt. She brings a captivating freshness and warmth to her role, a little reminiscent of a young Harriet Andersson. Her pale, wiry, broad-hipped body has a simple, unaffected, almost archetypal beauty, and in the film's more intimate moments, she radiates all the tactile sensual grace of a Munch or Degas nude.
As O'Brien, the Jesuitical inquisitor of infinite patience, Richard Burton delivers a superbly perspicacious swan-song performance he becomes almost a kind of an oracular Thanatos to Hamilton's Eros. In an exquisite, maliciously Swiftian twist of irony, Burton's famous voice, with its rich, mellifluous Welsh inflections and descending cadences of Shakespearean sonnets and Dylan Thomas poetry, becomes a cruel herald of the willful, systematic destruction of the human spirit -- of `the worst thing in the world' that waits in Room 101 in the fated `place where there is no darkness.' When O'Brien tells Winston, `you are thinking that my face is old and tired and that while I talk of power I am unable to prevent the decay of my own body,' Burton's sagging, weary face speaks volumes.
In the lesser roles, Gregor Fisher's Parsons literally resembles a sweaty frog, James Walker's Syme is the classic image of a squirrelly, mealy-mouthed hack-intellectual, while Andrew Wilde cuts the most chilling figure as the bespectacled, unblinking company man,' Tillotson. The late Cyril Cusack plays Mr. Charrington, the kindly Cockney landlord who is not all that he appears to be, with an understated sentimental charm punctuated by slight flickers of calculating menace (watch closely for the way Cusack's facial expression changes whenever Hurt is not looking at him). Phyllis Logan (the star of Radford's début feature, ANOTHER TIME, ANOTHER PLACE, and a supporting player in Mike Leigh's SECRETS AND LIES) provides one of the film's most clever unacknowledged ironies: as the Telescreen Announcer, her strident, hectoring voice suggests a more shrill caricature of Margaret Thatcher.
If anything, this film makes a unique and compelling case for some of the oldest cinematic devices in the book that nearly all contemporary filmmakers have since abandoned: slow dissolves, fades, blackouts, shock-cuts, slow motion, flashbacks, montage. The high-contrast photography, alternately harsh and low-key lighting, and iconic close-up shots evoke the abstract, transcendental purity of Bresson or Dreyer. There is even one extraordinary sequence when Winston, bruised and battered, is seen having his head shorn in a holding cell that is clearly meant to recall Falconetti's famous haircutting scene in Dreyer's LA PASSION DE JEANNE D'ARC (1928). Similarly, Burton is filmed in oppressive, looming low-angle with Expressionist shadows defining the lines of his craggy visage à la Eugène Silvain's Bishop Cauchon sans the warts. And the idyllic barley fields of the Golden Country,' where Winston and Julia have their first tryst is a possible homage to the titular peasant paradise of Dovzhenko's EARTH (1926).
What makes the film so powerful is not merely its fidelity to its source but its vivid sense of realism. NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR is such an impassioned and richly textured work that the visuals almost seem to seep into the pores of your skin, intoxicating you with dread and longing. And Radford is so adept at obscuring the boundaries that separate the ameliorative persistence of reverie from the glaring harshness of waking reality, that the film's seamless perfection becomes almost frightening.
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