1984 Made in: UK Language: English Director: Michael Radford Starring: John Hurt, Richard Burton, Suzanna Hamilton Year: '84 Watch the film by clicking the video above
Synopsis: Based on the novel by George Orwell (published back in 1949), the story takes place in a dystopian future. Three nation-states which are locked in a perpetual state of war and/or allegiance with each other. London is within the nation-state Oceania, which is ruled by a totalitarian regime known as The Party.
The Party exerts control over its citizens through constant surveillance, devout ideological indoctrination, and social conformity.
Any possible subversive action and beliefs are suppressed by the ruthless Thought Police, who routinely arrest and execute anyone suspected of "thought crime."
Winston Smith (John Hurt) is a civil servant who works in the vast (and ironically titled) Ministry of Truth. His job is to alter printed records, such as newspaper articles, photos, and government reports, to conform to the Party's official version of current events.
In other words, Winston destroys evidence of the past to help maintain the Party's absolute control.
However, he is haunted by memories of his mother and younger sister, who disappeared when he was young. Winston secretly hates the Party, and keeps a secret journal where he documents his thoughts.
One day, he meets a young woman named Julia (Suzanna Hamilton), who also shares a hatred for the Party and all that it stands for.
At the risk of being arrested and tortured by the dreaded Thought Police, the two begin a secret, passionate affair. It is both an act of rebellion and a means of preserving their humanity, with no telling how long it could possibly last.
The Good: 1984 is very faithful to the book, and during pivotal scenes, accurately conveys the philosophical depth of Orwell's writing. The casting is very good- John Hurt's interpretation of Winston Smith is consistent with Orwell's description, and the late Richard Burton does a great job as the inscrutable O'Brien.
The production design, although low-budget, creates the appropriate sense of dreariness as outlined in the book. And I think it was a good decision on the part of the filmmakers to give the film more of a 1940s science-fiction look (as Orwell imagined) rather than modernizing the hell out of it with contemporary special effects.
Much of the important dialogue is taken straight from the book, and handled very well by the actors. The final scene is a little more ambiguous than the book, and arguably offers a sense of hope. But I think it works overall.
The Bad: Book to film adaptations, no matter how faithful, inevitably fall short. As good a job as John Hurt does, it's impossible to cinematically translate all the internal thought processes of his character.
And since Winston's thoughts (in the book) shape the description of the other characters, the audience probably isn't feeling the full importance of the roles played by Richard Burton and Suzanne Hamilton.
The hit 80's group Eurythmics is credited with much of the soundtrack, but it was so underscored that I barely noticed it.
Who would like this film: 1984 is for you if you've already read the novel, are a fan of George Orwell, and if you're experienced with watching art films. This type of science fiction is more cerebral and slower paced, and is vastly different from other sci-fi pics that you may have seen John Hurt appear in (such as Alien and Spaceballs).
Although the theme of "rebellion against a totalitarian regime" will be familiar to you, 1984 isn't a movie about one guy tearing down an entire system with a machine gun and a few one-liners. Again, it's more of a cerebral film that delves into the thought process behind oppressive powers, and the horrifying tactics they employ against objective reality.