Where does art end and cinema start? Enjoy our new contemporary film series as guest curators blur the lines between art and cinema.
War of the Worlds: Science Fiction across the Iron Curtain
This month as part of our Screening Program, we welcome Daniel Fairfax as our July film curator. Daniel Fairfax is an Australian arts writer, critic, doctoral candidate in film at Yale University and editor at Senses of Cinema.
Sat 9 July, 2pm
Free, Drop in
Level 2, Veolia Lecture Theatre
Director- Francois Truffaut
Running Time- 1 hr 52 mins
About the film:
François Truffaut’s adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451 is a true cinematic mongrel – in the best sense of the word. The fifth feature film by French nouvelle vague luminary – still only 33 years old at the time of filming – was his first in colour and his first in the English language. Tackling the American fantasy writer’s landmark work of dystopian fiction, Truffaut marshalled Austrian actor Oskar Werner (a previous collaborator on Truffaut’s Jules et Jim ) and English star Julie Christie for the Universal Pictures-funded French-UK coproduction, as well as the talents of iconic composer Bernard Herrmann for the soundtrack and Nicholas Roeg for the cinematography.
Werner plays Montag, who works for an unnamed totalitarian government as a Fireman: rather than put out fires, however, the firemen of this world are tasked with incinerating books, which have been deemed illegal for their “anti-social” properties. Dissatisfied with his television-obsessed wife Linda, Montag meets neighbour Clarisse, a free-spirited school teacher who incites his curiosity for the literary works he is employed to destroy – in an experimental touch, both of the female roles are played by Christie. When Montag’s attraction to the printed word draws the attentions of his squadron commander, he and Clarisse flee to join the “book people”, a commune of outcasts who keep literature alive by committing books to memory.
Whereas Bradbury’s novel was unambiguously a response to the Red Scare of the 1950s, Truffaut’s occasionally camp adaptation points to more general concerns about the totalitarian potential of modernity, with an ironic paean to the design principles of International Style architecture and Sixties fashion. Both works, however, evocatively hark back to the Nazi book-burning campaigns of the 1930s, and both issue a warning about the perils of a media-saturated populace: Montag’s living-room, with giant flat-screens incessantly spewing out inane interactive reality television programmes, seems all too prescient from the present-day standpoint. More than this, however, Truffaut’s film is a personal homage to his own literary canon, one which includes Poe, Stendhal, Dickens, Macchiavelli, Austen, Melville, Genet, Turgenev, Sade, Brontë, Defoe, Dostoyevsky, Nabokov and even Mad magazine.
Image- Film promotional poster