Monday, May 21, 2018

'Fahrenheit 451' (2018)

Ramin Bahrani's 2018 adaptation of the 1953 Ray Bradbury novel Fahrenheit 451 on HBO stars Michael B. Jordan as Montag, Michael Shannon as Beatty, and Sofia Boutella as Clarisse.  There's enough action in the novel to make a mini-series; it's harder to pull off in a 101-minute movie. I like the new version, however. It's updated to include recognizable social media and contemporary variations on book burning. In this version, too, the carriers of books and oral traditions are "eels" - derogatory slang for "illegals." Some technology critics seem to hate all of this new stuff, but they also seemed to have missed the boat, the train and the book. When the US is led by a man who does not read, the nation is already half in the bag of dodoville. It's a worldwide trend -- backward. In light of today's socially retarded emotional fascism, one cannot afford to be too subtle. 

In the opening sequence of Fahrenheit 451, there are images of burning books and visual art and, at one point, a picture of Frederick Douglass (circa 1818-1895).

Fact number one: in the first month of taking office, the current American president said this: "Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice." (Multiple sources. Here's oneDavid A. Graham, "Donald Trump's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass," The Atlantic, February 1, 2017). Fact number 2: Douglass was born a slave and died long before Trump's birth,  but as he (Douglass, not Trump) learned to read, the possibilities of freedom became more palpable, and eventually he escaped to freedom.

Some folks didn't like the carrier bird in this version of Fahrenheit 451. I thought it was totally cool. Incidentally, I also just saw Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), in which books also play a big part -- as do carrier pigeons, which were also important during the Great War of 1914-1918, of which this year is the centenary of its last year. 
Finally, the flames. I had an English teacher who had my class read Max Frisch's Biedermann und die Brandstifter / The Firebugs, a play that was first published in 1953 -- the same year as Ray Bradbury's original Fahrenheit 451. In The Firebugs, arsonists are stand-ins for totalitarian brutes who talk their way into people's homes, only to torch them in the end. She --- Joan Boyd -- also had us read Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932). Ann Barlow, another inspiring English teacher, strongly encouraged outside reading, including in my case several novels by Ray Bradbury. Such wonderful English teachers would be classified as "eels" in the new movie, which is like a blend of The Firebugs, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four (1949), Brave New World, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (1985) and Fahrenheit 451. Dig it or douse it -- your choice. 

Today's Rune: Breakthrough.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I'll definitely see it. love this book. It just struck me that one thing Kanye and Trump have in common is their disdain for "readers"