Burn Baby Burn

Fahrenheit 451

Film. Presented out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival, does the american remake of François Truffaut’s movie, Fahrenheit 451, keep its promises ?

By Jacques Braunstein

It may sound like a funny idea to produce a new adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s eponymous novel. When the author published it in the fifties and when François Truffaut proposed a first filmed version of it in 1966, the idea that the writting would be supplanted by television and the culture of the image was feasible.

“A hollywood action film where Dostoïevski, Kafka and Proust are quoted.”

But nowadays, emailing, texting and mostly social networks, prove that the culture of image and writting moves forward together. Even if the first one has clearly a preeminence over the second one. Ramin Bahrani, noticed director with 99 Home, Grand prix of the Deauville Festival in 2015, had the idea of a world actually dominated by social networks. Present everywhere, on the walls of buildings to the mirror of your bathroom. He spread photos, videos intersected by some words and a lot of emojis. Well, a world that furiously looks like ours. As in the former versions of Fahrenheit 451 (temperature at which paper consumes itself) books are forbidden and burned by a new kind of fireman. Movies, series, CDs and hard drive that could contain those works are also proscribed. The entire culture, if we can still call it like this, must be produced in the immediacy of the network. And the available knowledge is the one approved by the State and indexed by a silly search engine. Moby Dick : a dozen lines in novlangue emoticone that roughly sums up the story… The Bible : a text box barely longer…

On the grounds that antagonist opinions expressed in books and other works led to the second civil war that killed 8 million people. A dimension that is also missing in the previous versions. Since, everyone remain in the happiness of unanimity and of massive doses of tranquilizers.

The hero, Montag, top fireman embodies by Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Black Panther…), has the curiosity to open a book when he meets a reprobate (Eels, who has no more access to the network), performed by the Franco-Algerian Sofia Boutella (Climax, Star Trek Beyond…) and finds a community of people who are learning books by heart. While his boss (Michael Shannon) is trying to eradicate through fire this embryo of resistance.

In François Truffaut’s version, accusations against Montag were lost in a bureaucracy that had no more words to organize its action. The movie illustrates the loss of language through its own story. Whereas in Bahrani’s story, good people as bad one are driven by clear and opposed goals as in any blockbuster (even if its budget is not that huge). Comes a trenchant and rather elegant dystopian thriller. An honest hollywood action movie in which Dostoïevski, Kafka and Proust are quoted. Which is quite funny.

Anyway, the film worth it, but at the end of this text, his author realizes he wrote it mostly to say a word about the 1966 version and its pop poetry  (trailer). The 2018 version does not come out in theaters but will be broadcast on HBO. The perfect place to watch it during an idleness sunday night.

* Curiously, whereas Netflix was expelled from the Cannes Festival because its movies does not come out in theaters, HBO managed to register Fahrenheit 451 in the out-of-competition selection. Le livre d’images by Jean-Luc Godard, which received a special Palme d’Or, will be broadcast by Arte and projected in museums. Girl and Lazzaro Felice, rewarded as well, was repurchased by Netflix for the US market.