What's new

HBO is adapting Fahrenheit 451 (1 Viewer)

Adam Lenhardt

Senior HTF Member
Feb 16, 2001
Albany, NY
I know the Truffaut film has its admirers, but for me it's always felt very dated and fallen well short as an adaptation. For one thing, a lot of the book's world building is entirely missing. I also preferred Clarisse the intellectually curious student to Clarisse the persecuted grade school teacher. Also Julie Christie is justifiably considered a film icon, but she was woefully miscast in this. The one thing it got right was that beautiful, surprisingly hopeful ending.

So there's plenty of room for improvement. The rise of reality television also provides a lot specificity and context for the satire that didn't exist in 1966.

But it's also a book that for whatever reason conjures very specific mental images for me, so I'm probably more prone to disappointment with any adaptations than I would be with other source material.


Supporting Actor
Sep 2, 2019
Real Name
One thing that Writer-Director Ramin Bahrani and co-writer Amir Naderi had to deal with in their adaptation of Ray Bradbury's novel that the author didn't was the internet and a whole new world of digital communication. Neither did Francois Truffuat nor his co-writer Jean-Louis Richard in their acclaimed if problematic 1966 film. Of course, Bahrani could have done their version as a period piece, but, credit for not taking that way out of it. Unfortunately, this re-working has issues all its own.

The very bare bones of Bradbury's book are still there: In an unspecified future, books are banned and firemen now start fires by burning those illicit volumes. Montag (Michael B. Jordan) is our fireman protagonist and Captain Beatty (Michael Shannon) his superior. Montag witnesses the torching of an old woman's (Lynne Griffin) massive library, during which Montag secretly steals a book (Dostoevsky's Notes From Underground ) and begins to read. Eventually, he meets up with a free-thinking woman Clarisse (Sofia Boutella) and she encourages his interest in reading. Eventually, Montag discovers an underground group of literate citizens who are fighting to keep books alive (they are called 'Eels' here).

With that skeleton, Bahrani has fashioned a new version (this is a rare case where the term "re-imagining" actually applies). Unfortunately, he's created something that is more a futuristic Orwellian 1984 than a true FAHRENHEIT adaptation (there's even a citation of Winston Smith's vexing conundrum "2 + 2 = 5"; albeit the citation is via Dostoevsky not Orwell). In this future world, technology is still rampant, but the written word is used sparingly and replaced largely by pictures, symbols and emoji. In addition to books, it appears as if movies have also been banished, but, it's never clearly defined.

Jordan and Shannon are fine actors, but, as was the case with SHAPE OF WATER, Shannon's presence is so over-powering that his supporting role ends up dominating (and diminishing) the lead. Shannon is one of our finest actors, but he risks being caricatured as being the authority figure with a psychotic edge. Boutella and the supporting cast (including Khandi Alexander) are all fine, if largely shunted to the background. The production design and other tech credits are fine considering the cable budget with judicious choices in keeping the number of large locations to a minimum, although it must be said that the over-use of CGI flames borders on comical at times.

It's fine for Bahrani to have re-imagined Bradbury's story as a futuristic 1984. What's not forgivable is that it's so often poorly thought out. Montag's wife from the novel has been eliminated, replaced by cliched flashbacks to his childhood (a hoary device). There's an Alexa-like device called Yuxies which turns out to have Big-Brother-ish tendencies - or, does it? The movie doesn't clearly say. The movie retains Bradbury's Book People - but, then relegates their importance to the background in favor of a new construct called Omnis. More fundamentally, it seems as though the U.S. is the only country under this totalitarian rule. Other nations, including next-door neighbor Canada, are called in Orwellian-speak "dark countries". But, if most of the world is free, then is Omnis even necessary? The bird is a nice tip of the cap to Bradbury's Phoenix imagery, but, it's little recompense for the dearth of deep thought that went into creating this new Fahrenheit world.

Bahrani is a serious filmmaker (99 HOMES, GOODBYE SOLO) and he resists the urge to amp things up too aggressively, although there is an unnecessary chase or two towards the end. Sadly, that general temperance hasn't been matched by a logically-constructed visualization. It's a testament to the power of Bradbury's words that this FAHRENTHEIT 451 still effects you if even in a small way. But, more likely, you will be moved to simply just re-read his novel (and maybe, check out Truffuat's 1966 version which, flaws and all, still has one of the most touching finales in cinema).

Users who are viewing this thread

Forum Sponsors

Latest Articles

Forum statistics

Latest member
Recent bookmarks