1984
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1984

With modern technology, it is feasible for an ardent fan to assemble a significantly sizable collection of movies and complete series of their favorite television shows. With such an incredible selection to choose from the apparent dilemma that frequently arises is which movie to watch? From personal experience, I have often found that watching a film with similar cast, crew or themes make the selection criteria significantly narrower. Recently, events that dominated every source of news on the planet occurred; the 45th President of the United States took office. After a tumultuous campaign, the resulting transfer of power immediately became a continual source of controversy, shattering traditions that have stood for centuries. Regardless of any personal options concerning the new administration, it is undeniable that a significant paradigm shift has occurred altering the fabric of the zeitgeist. One example that happened only days ago has manifested itself by rocking a literary classic first published in 1949 to the lauded spot as number one on Amazon.com, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.' This bleak dystopian story has become synonymous with totalitarian governments. Complete surrender of personal freedom and privacy and a regime exerting mind control to pacify a downtrodden population. The phase that ignited the resurgence of popularity for this prophetic novel spoken by a high ranking and very public member of the new administration, "Alternate facts." The context was the unwavering refusal to acknowledge facts contrary to the ardently held statements and policies of the new administration. Again, the context of this consideration pertains to the cinematic merits of the film released in 1984 by 20th Century Fox, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.' Within the story, there is nothing more uncertain that the future than the past. The government routinely bowdlerizes history and current events to support the position of the authoritarian government. A critical aspect of this is a linguistic contrivance created solely to deceive the public and ensure the administration is always correct. The usage is typically short statements utilizing a manufactured jargon that villainized the enemies of the state and lionizes the all-knowing a never incorrect leader, Big Brother. Just to be clear, crediting the revival of interest for the book and the film with the statement cited above, this review was intended to be considered apart from partisan politics restricting comments to generally perceived similarities.

The story takes place in the future, from the novel’s perspective, in London during the year 1984. The protagonist is Winston Smith (John Hurt), a man of gray persona identical to the millions of citizens of the conglomerated super-state of Oceania. It blends into a single socio-entity encompassing the former counties of Great Brittan, United States, Australia and much of the Pacific its perennial mortal enemy is Eurasia, centered on the former Soviet Union and much of Eastern Europe. A man spouting dangerously different ideas, Emmanuel Goldstein (John Boswell), has been identified as the worse enemy of their State and leader of the terrorist organization, ‘The Brotherhood.' No actual evidence was ever presented to the population; the word of Big Brother is absolute fact. After commuting from his small living quarters, Winston spends his work day in a minuscule cubical at the Ministry of Truth where his job requires him to retrofit history per the criteria established by the Party under the ever-watchful eye of Big Brother. This is where most associate Winston with the real-life administration spokespersons with their alternate facts’. Newspeak is sufficiently similar in form and function to tweeting that a direct correlation worries a lot of people. Winston harbors a secret that could be fatal if uncovered; he keeps a personal diary. From the audience, this is an innocuous activity commonly found with teenage girls. Having private thoughts is adamantly discouraged, but the act of writing them is tangible, irrefutably prove of such thoughts which are the worse transgression a person can commit, a thoughtcrime. This is one of the most powerful themes that the novel and eventually the film developed. It is frightening to consider that a person can be legally charged for the crime of thinking in a way the authorities disapprove, it is exponentially worse to realize that to achieve this that government must possess and actively employ a means know your thoughts. This complete negation of all personal privacy, establishing one of the terrifying archetypes ever, Big Brother. With government agencies, such as the NSA, CIA, and FBI reading millions of emails and conducting surveillance an incredible number of cell phones and other means of electronic communication, 1984 may be several decades late, but it has become a reality. Many metropolitan areas have blanketed the cities with CCTV, Closed Circuit Television. Big Brother is now watching everything.

The dramatic impetus occurs when Winston encounters another member of the Outer Party. They were the rank and file workers under the control of the ruling Inner Party members. This woman, Julia (Suzanna Hamilton), is a kindred spirit of sorts having individual thoughts opposed to the mandates of the State. In short order, they engage in an illicit sexual relationship. They realize that even a minor slip in their caution would result in arrest and a psychological and physically brutal reconditioning to restore their usefulness to the State. Winston procures a rented room above a pawn shop. There, they felt reasonably safe to continue their affair supplemented by black market foods and other contraband. The system was finely honed by agents exceptionally anxious to apprehend the miscreants so terribly ungrateful for all the Party provides for them and the protection from foreign enemies and treasonous archenemy of the Party, Emmanuel Goldstein. The cause of their downfall was a telescreen concealed in a painting.

The Thought Police have undercover operative everywhere. The kindly pawnbroker, Mr. Charrington (Cyril Cusack), was such a covert agent. An amazingly intense performance is given by an actor who has mastered stage and screen, Richard Burton, portraying senior Inner Party member, O'Brien. Winston was led to believe that he was a member of the resistance and fellow thought criminal. This character is used to provide the exposition disclosing the insidious full motives of the Party and their highly efficient reconditioning centers that propagate the idea of ‘doublethink,' forcing people to hold diametrically opposite thoughts simultaneously. The story was one of the most realistic examples of dystopian horror almost 70 years ago and unlike forms of horror dependent upon supernatural creatures the dehumanizing erosion of even your most private thoughts placing individuals under constant scrutiny. The film remains a classic because of the intensity of the performances most notably the incredibly poignant interpretation of one of literature’s most realistically drawn, ‘everyman’ by John Hurt. He wears the subjugated persona of Winston like donning a favorite sweatshirt. In many scenes, Mr. Hurt is so inside the mind of his character that it is a simple matter to forget you are watching a performance. You do not mealy voyeuristically watch this film; you experience it. In light of events and circumstances that have brought this fiction nightmare society into reality, the movie is something everyone needs to watch.

Posted 01/27/2017

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