This week the Batty About Books duo is discussing
Fahrenheit 451- The Movie
Last week, in honor of Ray Bradbury's passing, we read and discussed the classic, Fahrenheit 451. This week we watched and compared the movie.
Fahrenheit 451 - Francois Truffaut (director)
Overall I didn’t like the movie. I’d seen it before, but not this close to reading the book. The differences between the two were startling. I understand that a director and a script writer have to make decisions on how best to make a book visual, but I felt as if they changed the underlying themes.
Maria: I am pretty sure I haven’t seen this movie before. I agree, there are always things that need to change in a screen adaptation. I often have students watch a movie version of a book we’ve read. I’d say a major goal is to NOT change the overall meaning of the story... major fail here.
Clarisse - she was WAY too old. Not even sure why she still lived with her uncle. She didn’t convince me that she was this happy-go-lucky young lady at all. It answers my book question on why she was so young in book - made the story more believable. This just seemed odd.
Maria: Agreed. This was one of my complaints as well. She just made no sense, and didn’t really impact Guy the way she needed to.
Fire Chief - did not understand why he kept berating those two young firemen. Was it to show us how mean he was? His stiffness was the exact opposite of the chief in the book. You would not be afraid of him, you would more likely make fun of him. He seemed odd.
Maria: Yes! I can’t believe I didn’t mention that one. His character was so engaging - rich - and almost believable in the book. In the movie, though, I didn’t understand him at all! All the characters seemed stiff (though that’s partly the acting of the time). They all seemed fairly doped up for the entire movie.
Faber - why did they chose to leave him out? The idea that Montag needs a mentor to help him make the transition from firestarter to reader makes sense. He doesn’t use that part of his brain. Leaving Faber out leaves too much for Montag to figure out on his own. Odd choice.
Maria: The only thing I could think of is that adding Faber into the story adds more complexity - and more length to the movie. I know we’re used to movies that are close to or over 2 hours, but I think movies were shorter back then. I agree, though, losing this character caused us to make huge jumps in logic. Faber was so critical to Guy’s development.
Linda - Did they change her name because they made the her so much younger? And prettier? I pictured her as old and worn out and drugged. In the movie she was young and vibrant and used drugs yes but the her overdose was not believable. They changed so much about her it was as if she was a new character! This was like the opposite of Clarissa - she was more like how I pictured Clarissa to be! Odd!
Maria: I always find it odd when they change a character’s name. I know I put a lot of thought and effort into the name choices for my characters - and I think a name holds so much weight. I did picture her more like this movie version than you did - like a overly bored socialite - but they made her way too vibrant. Kathy: “Too vibrant” - yes, that’s what was missing and you are right, she would have been just an “overly bored socialite”. She was only supposed to be about 30 or so, so fairly young but her only life consisting of the “family”.
The Hound - where was he? I thought Montag’s fear of him in the book was an integral part of the story. Instead they used another fireman to turn on Montag. I wasn’t able to understand that character’s motivation - unless he was jealous of Montag’s promotion. No real character development from him struck me as odd.
Maria: Yes! Montag and the hound was a bit part of the book. Montag’s growing realization that humanity’s use of technology only reflects the violence within them. Maybe they didn’t’ have the budget for this effect? Though I can’t imagine it would have been that hard. Maybe something else about the 60s that would lead them to remove the robot from the story?
The Family - so creepy. Not inviting and engaging at all. I would have been turned OFF by them not felt like I should watch them 24/7. It was a little funny how they included her name in the show but they were clearly NOT concerned with her or her thoughts. They were just odd.
Maria: The “cousins” were SO incredibly bizarre! Creepy and disturbing. Again, I think Bradbury did a remarkable job describing his vision of the entertainment system in his book - and they completely ignored it. Did they even READ the book when they wrote this movie? Kathy: Haha! Exactly! It’s like when you hear a student talk about a book and you know they have no clue because they only read the book or heard others talking about it!
Housing - I liked the firehouse and Montag’s house. I didn’t like the houses they showed in the beginning. They were too sturdy and I thought the houses would be more easily burnable.
Maria: Hmm... I thought they looked like they belonged in the 60s. I guess I get why they wouldn’t want them to look too futuristic - the goal of the story is to feel “near future”, I think. But it’s like they could only say “hey, doors might open on their own” and that was the only nod to futurism at all. Even the phones looked ancient, and there were no “seashells” except when she went to bed. That appeared to only be her way to hear the tv without disturbing Guy’s sleep.
Televisions - what happened to the wall? That could have been done with a green screen! Yes, they had them in every room, but they didn’t seem immersed in them which is the impression I received from the book.
Maria: This was - honestly - the very first thing that pulled me right out of the movie. This would have been so easy to get right!
Television shows - they actually had the news playing at some point. Where was the fun and loud noise? Montag and Linda watched a show together! Also, when her friends were over - they were barely paying attention to the show, instead they were all talking.
Maria: I hated how they handled the television, sets and shows. So much of what I got from it was just the overwhelming CONSTANT noise, commercialism, etc. Yet this was missing completely from the movie. Again, did they read the book?
Book Burning - They mostly burned the books outside of the house. It was daylight. These choices were the opposite of Bradbury’s. What happened to all the contrasts of light/dark? Or even the types of light itself? And Montag wore special clothing to burn the books. That made the books more important and the invasion of television less so.
Maria: This was a startling change. Think how amazing the visuals on this could have been! Movies are supposed to be a visual experience, so why did they fall down on this area?
S-E-X - What about the scene on the tram where EVERYONE is touching themselves? The innuendoes from the blood changing men? The scene with Montag and Linda after she was cleansed? Was this just a French thing?
Maria: Heh. So true. Though if other things had been done well I could have understood this. I saw it as people craving true sensory input (rather than the sterile input from a screen). But the fact that they completely removed the “living life - experiencing life” message from Clarisse, this seemed like a bizarre side scene. Ah! that makes sense.
Police - a little “big brother” ish with the way they answer the phone Listening. Also why was it necessary to cut people’s hair? The police played a more prominent role in the movie. They even completed files on the “perpetrators” that were then sent to firemen. AFTER they’d already burned those people’s books.
Maria: I’m betting this ties in with the 60s mentality. Honestly, what a cool high school media literacy project this could be! Study the 60s and then watch the movie to pull out the possible reasoning for the movie choices.
River - First, flying policemen? That didn’t even make sense. And how did he know when they were gone if he was under the tarp? Why was there only one boat there? Also, he found the river much too easily. The chase scene was so much less dramatic without the hound. And the pretend chase? He ran around the fire department and got shot? No tension at all. And what about the people at the river? They weren’t even hiding! They were loud so it didn’t make sense that the government didn’t know they were there. Why were they allowed to congregate like that? I did like that they were like a family with people of all ages. And also that people’s names were changed to reflect the book they’d memorized. I didn’t like that the guy from the beginning of the movie and Clarisse were both there, but I guess it worked for the movie.
Maria: Can I also say that I didn’t like the way it just ended? Yes, the bombing in the book was extreme - but I thought it was more powerful. I also laughed when I saw the flying police officers. So they can do that - but not have wall sized televisions? So strange!
Well, have you read the book or seen the movie? Or both? We'd love to hear what you think about all this. In the meantime, pop on over to Maria's Melange to get her side of the (visual) story!
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