- Apr 24, 2006
- Charlotte, NC
- Real Name
- Matt Hough
A mood of futility and despondency is, as it should be, quite overpowering in Michael Radford’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the second and better film version of the famous political satire penned by George Orwell in 1949. Though deliberately drab of look and quite talky, the movie is nonetheless favorably faithful to the book in all of the most important ways, and it delivers the chilling message of its author quite hauntingly even if this is one of those films that many wouldn’t feel like revisiting on regular occasions.
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 1 Hr. 51 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-rayclear keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 12/08/2015
The Production Rating: 4/5
With Big Brother (the all-seeing governmental watchdog agency) controlling every thought and action of Oceania’s zombie-like populace, worker Winston Smith (John Hurt) makes it a point to quietly retain tiny portions of his individuality with a few remaining memories of a more individualistic era: having sex with a prostitute though BB frowns on sexual dalliances, keeping a diary of his daily thoughts and feelings, visiting an old junk shop which contains a few relics of the freer age of the past. During the course of his daily enterprises, Winston meets Julia (Suzanna Hamilton), a headstrong and rebellious girl who also prizes freedoms of an earlier era, and after she takes him to the forest away from Big Brother’s prying telescreens and shows him a gorgeous rolling hillside with grassy meadows and trees far, far removed from the drab, bleak existence in the city, Winston begins to long for a life with Julia, something the government would never allow but which he tries to arrange by renting a tastefully furnished room from the kindly junk shop owner Mr. Charrington (Cyril Cusack). His professional situation looks even more promising when he’s summoned to meet party official Mr. O’Brien (Richard Burton) who seems to take a shine to him. But things are not what they seem as Winston will soon painfully learn.
Director Michael Radford’s screenplay stays very close to the Orwell novel, and those not familiar with its worldview (with terms like telescreen, newspeak, thought police, and the like) may feel as if they’re playing a bit of catch up in the early going until one settles into the wonderfully realized totalitarian society being portrayed here. The mood of bleak depression suffuses almost every frame of the movie (apart from those idyllic moments in that grassy glen or when Winston revisits it in his mind), and the portrayal of a society brainwashed into Pavlov dog-like responses to video images or the constant repetition of facts and figures from the telescreens (and conveniently altered by Winston and his ilk when governmental projections aren’t met thus rewriting history to make the government appear to be clairvoyant) gives the satirical slant to the film a firm foundation from which to operate. Things we take for granted like sugar, milk, white bread, coffee and tea, and jam make their faces spark with wonder, and the contrast between the passionless, automatic sex with the prostitute and the genuine lovemaking between two eager partners couldn’t be more telling. The novel and film also take on topics like thought control, governmental conspiracies, prisoner torture, and mass hysteria: all hotbeds of discussion and debate today as they have been for many decades. Orwell’s book truly is one of the literary marvels of the 20th century, and the film does the book proud.
The film proved to be the final one for Richard Burton (he’s given a dedication card in the end credits), and his performance as O’Brien is wonderfully controlled and far removed from the extreme ham which dotted much of the work in some of his last films. John Hurt makes a splendid everyman, an inconspicuous little drone who imagines his small anarchies won’t be of much concern to Big Brother but who learns too late how wrong he is. Suzanna Hamilton’s Julia is quite good, too, offering full frontal nudity without a shred of self-consciousness and playing the role with earnestness and skill. Cyril Cusack is delightful as the soft-spoken Charrington with more beneath the surface than one at first suspects, and Gregor Fisher as Winston’s co-worker and faithful party member Parsons has some excellent moments late in the movie as it comes down to him or Winston set up for torture.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
Desaturated through most of the movie to offer the bleak mood for this futuristic society, the transfer retains the movie’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (1080p resolution using the AVC codec). Sharpness is excellent, and those bright, colorful shots of the grassy hillside with its lovely blue skies and green trees prove color can look realistic and appealing under those few special circumstances. Black levels are more than acceptable, and contrast, a little heavier than usual, is thoughtfully sustained. There are, as with many of MGM’s high definition transfers, some dust specks to be seen but not as constant as in some of their transfers. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.
Audio Rating: 4/5
The disc offers two versions of the soundtrack, both in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0: the director’s cut features the orchestral score by Dominic Muldowney; the releasing studio’s choice of a pop score by Eurythmics is also offered (I much preferred the Muldowney score). Though occasional softly-spoken dialogue occasionally gets lost with the Eurythmics’ score, generally dialogue, music, and sound effects blend together naturally. Age-related problems with hiss and crackle have been held to a minimum.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
Isolated Score Track: the Eurythmics’ score is offered in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.
Theatrical Trailer (2:21, SD)
MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer (2:06, HD)
Six-Page Booklet: contains some compelling stills from the film, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s salient essay on the movie.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Nineteen Eighty-Four is an outstanding film version of one of the 20th century’s most important literary works of art. The Twilight Time Blu-ray disc of the film is likely as good as we’re ever going to get of this excellent piece of cinema. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via their website at www.twilighttimemovies.com or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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