“1984 (1984)” Review

It’s not so much staying alive, it’s staying human that’s important.

Why did I watch it?

I wouldn’t class Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four as a fun book, but it’s an important one.

Did it meet expectations?

With its slightly trippy soundtrack and blending of propaganda and dreams, the narrative is less linear than I expected but though it’s a long time since I read the book, many memorable scenes have stayed with me, and these are all there and realised very effectively.

John Hurt is excellent as Winston Smith; Suzanna Hamilton (Swallows & Amazons) is intense as Julia. And, though I didn’t realise it, this is Richard’s Burton’s last film.

Although the film is now almost as old as the book was when the film was made, it doesn’t seem it. If you’d shown me the opening propaganda film, and told me it was a Conservative Party Political Broadcast from 2015 or 2017, honestly, I’d have believed you without giving it a second thought.

According to the director, Michael Radford 1984 shares many locations with Brazil (filmed around the same time) – the locations Orwell mentions in the book – it is equally nightmarish, and equally beautifully realised (with photography by Roger Deakins, who just won an Oscar for Bladefunner 2049). But it has none of the comedy or absurdity. And at least as much brutality. It’s no more pleasant to watch than the book is to read, and though impressive, it may be a while before I look at it again.

You should watch it if…

  • You like your dystopian films really dystopian.
  • You want to be depressed.

You shouldn’t watch it if…

  • You’re worried you’ve committed thoughtcrime.

Up next: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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