Film Stuff

Day 19: 1984 (1984)

I think if I do this challenge again, I need to be slightly more organised on the advanced viewing front. Still, I suppose it’s the principle that counts rather than a strict adherence to chronological accuracy.

When I was in Sixth Form, I could usually be found playing snooker very badly (in a room that was a converted toilet block), or in the library being annoyingly swotty. The snooker lasted until the table was confiscated for being too disruptive (thanks, Ms Malt), leaving the library as the sole source of entertainment. Bearing in mind that this was the Encarta CD-Rom  level of technological support (there was only one computer in the entire school that had an internet connection), I started reading a helluva lot of books. To try and get myself up to speed, I remember reading things like Brighton RockDracula, Machiavelli’s The Prince (get me!), Jude the Obscure (bleurgh), Frankenstein and 1984. 

To date, I hadn’t actually seen any film adaptations of these texts (ignoring The Prince), with the possible exception of the Christopher Eccleston/ Kate Winslet Jude abomination. It probably wasn’t that bad; I just hated it. So I went into 1984 with only a vague memory of the book, but with the knowledge that it definitely wasn’t going to end well. There’s a strange juxtaposition in remembering a story that’s portraying the bleakest kind of dystopian future, which I first encountered at a period of life that I view with a great sense of nostalgic affection. Perhaps a useful reminder that even at times of ease and contentment, there is the underlying threat of darker things to come.

I watched most of the first hour of the film while drunk, so beyond thinking “fuck me, it’s Rab C Nesbitt“, I’m not sure I have much to offer. John Hurt plays a small cog in a very big wheel, going about his business in a bleached out, run-down London that’s as knackered as he is. He embarks on a love-affair with free-spirited Julia, who encourages his burgeoning individuality. Their expectant hopes are soon crushed by discovery and imprisonment, as they find out the true power of “Big Brother” and the latent horrors of “Room 101”.

The final 40 minutes are among the most disturbing, gripping and depressing scenes I’ve come across. The battle of wills between John Hurt and Richard Burton is brilliantly performed, with the state of humanity at stake. The casual brutality with which Burton plucks a tooth from Hurt’s rotting mouth is topped only by the intense dread of Room 101. It indicative of the strength of Orwell’s ideas, that a brand which has been so devalued by contemporary culture and reference, still retains the power to shock. Because the power of suggestion is so horrific, that you understand why people would say and believe anything to escape.

I REALLY want to go and read the book again now.

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