Pixel8 Reviews - 1984 the Book vs the Movie

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Pixel8 Reviews - 1984 the Book vs the Movie

Nineteen Eighty-Four – The Book vs The Film

George Orwell’s ‘1984’ is a widely regarded as one of the most influential works of dystopian fiction. The story follows the central character of Winston, who toils to survive in a world overshadowed by Big Brother, a construction of the ruling elite. Against the backdrop of a never ending war, and constant observation from the duplicitous citizens who inhabit Winston’s world, he searches for humanity where it appears to have been lost. A world where even the thoughts of men can be controlled and manipulated.

The Book

One of the most striking things about the book is that it was written in 1949. Although it was primarily a political novel, charged with darkly twisted remarks on communism at the beginning of the cold war era, it is the element of control held over Winston by the ruling powers that spoke loudest to me when I first read the novel. The manipulation of everyday aspects of life in Orwell’s world are absolute and frightening. His language is tempered, his thoughts are monitored, news and history is altered and every waking act is under strict observation. Any deviation from Big Brother’s party line is swiftly and severely dealt with.

Reading the book instantly made me question a lot about the media I was consuming. I was instantly aware of the mass of information which was permeating the consciousness through television, news, movies, posters and propaganda. Knowing someone was trying to sell me something, tell me something and basically influence me at every turn was a liberating awakening as a 15-year-old trying to make sense of it all. The feeling that you understand the methods of control, albeit in a nicely-packaged capitalist world, was still a transcendent experience. Powerful stuff right!

In the years since the book was published it could be argued that people are more media savvy and openly understand that we are being force fed someone’s agenda, and the fact that this is more often than not coming from the ruling elite. Kids now study media and film in school; experts and academics like Chomsky and Baudrillard have laid bare the inner workings of media based control. So are the messages in Orwell’s novel still relevant?

Absolutely. Now firmly in the era of ‘fake news’, even the populist agendas that we think we understand have become clouded, so people don’t know what is true or what to be afraid of. Politicians accuse the media of lying, journalists speak of corrupt politicians. Who should we trust? The book teaches you to trust yourself, trust your gut, trust your humanity, trust what you know. If you haven’t read it, go and read it!


1984 The film

Michael Radford’s adaptation of Orwell’s novel was released in 1984 and starred John Hurt, Richard Burton and Suzanna Hamilton.

First of all, John Hurt is immense in this role. His naturally drawn frame and pained look speak of an unhealthy ill-nourished sole, a perfect presentation of Orwell's protagonist, Winston.

Visually, the world Radford has created is richly dark. Grimy and oppressive, regimented and run down, it is an environment that could only be accepted by a person living in a subjugated state of abject fear. Something like a metropolitan POW camp. The scene with the rat attached to Winston’s face came alive when watching the film. There are some things that the eyes don’t mind reading but don’t like watching!

The love story between Winston and Julia is overplayed more in the movie than in the book, and this is to the detriment of establishing the nuances for social control which Orwell describes so convincingly in the book. That is not say that the movie doesn’t create an overbearing sense of dread and foreboding, but it has less focus on the means of control, which were in 1949, were so new and so powerful. Where the movie surpasses the book is in the depiction of the human struggle. This is solely down to Hurt’s performance as Winston. The psychological pain as Winston struggles to find meaning in a life bereft of love and truth is palpable throughout the film. It is a powerhouse performance which enriches the adaptation and gives it’s own context to the on-screen world.


The Book ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ vs The Film ‘1984’

I am a huge fan of both the book and the movie. They are both moving in their own ways. The film is fantastic visually and in telling the human story of living in hyper-controlled oppressive world, but the book better explains how this control is created. This was the most illuminating thing for me when reading the book for the first time and is still poignant to me twenty years on. For that reason I have to take the book over the film. The book has also spawned so many popular references like 'Big Brother', 'Room 101' and 'Double-Speak', making it difficult to ignore the cultural significance of the original book.

That said, I have my fingers crossed for a big-budget movie remake. Christian Bale would be great for the role. A master of playing isolated yet righteous characters in movies like Equilibrium, The Machinist, Empire of the Sun and Rescue Dawn, he has the perfect grounding for a lead role as Winston. Someone should make this happen! In the meantime, as I said before, go and read the book. If you’ve already read it, give it another go and enjoy watching the news!

Here are links to the book and the films if you want to take my advice!

Film: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087803/?ref_=nv_sr_2

Book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nineteen-Eighty-Four-Penguin-Modern-Classics/dp/014118776X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1531174334&sr=8-1&keywords=1984

Art: https://pixel8prints.net/collections/book-cover-prints/products/1984-alternative-book-cover-print-minimalist-design-of-orwells-powerful-and-iconic-book-available-in-three-sizes-a3-a4-a5



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