Analyzing the Fahrenheit 451 Films by Truffaut and Bahrani

Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury is one of my favourite books for a multitude of reasons, such as Bradbury’s use of poetic language and its’ timeless, universal themes. Although Fahrenheit 451 was originally published in 1953, over 60 years ago, many themes are still relevant today; specifically censorship, and the loss of culture through the loss of information distribution and consumption. Bradbury emphasizes the importance of books to aid in the preservation of cultures and knowledge. In my essay, I will respectively explore the 1966 film directed by Truffaut and the 2018 film adaptation directed by Bahrani, analyzing how both films use setting and tone to convey the novel and the writer’s message. I will compare both films to identify which of the two best communicates the novel’s themes. 

In the 1966 Fahrenheit 451 film, Truffaut strategically and simultaneously uses both silence and cinematic music to create a dramatic and compelling atmosphere. For instance, in the beginning scene, the contrast between the absence of character dialogue and surrounding noises, paired with intense music, ultimately conveys a tone of urgency and immediacy. Truffaut successfully creates an intense tone throughout the film. While I assert that the frantic tone of the film is evidently illustrated, I also assert that the character, Clarisse, is expressed as a less dimensional character than as in the novel. For instance, in the novel, Bradbury presents Clarisse as a young seventeen-year-old adolescent (5) with a burning curiosity for unconventional knowledge and the world around her. Clarisse’s strong drive for knowledge and her introspective nature, leads her to be perceived as “anti-social” (26) and “the other” by her school and society (26). Bradbury’s Clarisse is exhibited as a rebellious, free-thinking youth, who is revealed as an unlikely teacher to Montag and ultimately a catalyst for Montag’s own internal transformation. In contrast to the novel, Truffaut’s film conveys Clarisse as an independent twenty-year-old teacher. In the film, rather than being defiant youth who rebels against oppression and censorship, Clarisse essentially submits to the society that she opposes by assuming a respectable job in society. I argue that the slight change in Clarisse’s age and profession drastically impact the intention. For instance, while Clarisse is quite literally a teacher in the film, she lacks the naivety and child-like youthfulness of Bradbury’s Clarisse. Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 closely follows Bradbury’s novel and original intention.

Bahrani’s 2018 film possesses many fresh and interesting elements. Similar to Truffaut’s film, Bahrani’s film opens with an intense scene; teaching oppression through the restriction books in schools. I found the initial scene captivating, as it emphasizes the children’s learned negative emotional response to the presence of books. In addition, Bahrani’s creates a new and futuristic Sci-Fi atmosphere. Bahrani stresses the importance of technology in the futuristic world. For instance, Montag and the firemen also burn and prevent digitally sharing books online by also burning technology. Furthermore, rebels and violators are presented with the punishment of their identity being destroyed. This addition of detail is significant in the film, by illustrating the close relationship and impression that books have on one’s identity. While Bahrani’s heavy stress on technology is an interesting twist on the classic novel, I also argue that the futuristic setting ultimately takes away from the novel’s sense of immediacy and urgency. The futuristic setting in union with the incorporation of new technological advancements conveys the notion of mass censorship as something less immediate and pressing. 

In conclusion, while I assert that the 2018 film Fahrenheit 451 directed by Bahrani illustrates a captivating and innovative modern twist through the emphasis on futuristic elements, I argue that the 1966 film directed by Truffaut is more effective. I assert that Bahrani’s film fundamentally differs from the original novel so much so that the film would have been more effective as an individual work rather than an adaptation.

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