Rachel’s Retro Reviews: Fahrenheit 451

Rachel’s Retro Reviews: Fahrenheit 451

Rachel Bell, Messenger Reporter

WARNING: While the author has taken painstaking efforts to leave this review spoiler-free, the definition of a “spoiler” is subjective, and everyone has different thoughts and opinions on this. Please read at your own risk.


Everyone either holds hope or fear for the future. While individuals are generally optimistic about what the future holds, popular culture has always capitalized on the idea of a dystopia. Fahrenheit 451 (1966) is a science fiction film based on Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel of the same name. It was directed by Francois Truffaut. For this review, we will be examining the film by itself, and won’t be comparing it to the source material.


In a future in which houses are fireproof, Firemen are now tasked with burning books, which have been made illegal due to the amount of thinking it requires of people, which has caused widespread unhappiness. Montag (Oscar Werner) is a diligent Fireman who has always abided by the anti-literary philosophy, until he meets his neighbor, Clarisse (Julie Christie), a teacher who questions him as to whether he ever reads the books he burns. He goes home to his television-obsessed wife Linda (also played by Julie Christie) and ponders the consequences of actually reading. He begins to hoard books that he finds on the job, and must fight for his freedom after he is exposed to his old comrades the Firemen.


To be be over half a century old, the story of Fahrenheit 451 is nothing short of prophetic, which is what really makes it interesting. Flatscreen TVs, earbuds, and tablets are just a few examples of technology portrayed in this film that would come to real life later. That is Fahrenheit 451’s strongest virtue: it can be used to serve as a warning of our dependence on technology.


Montag is bland and emotionless, and it is hard to discern whether that is how he is meant to be characterized or not. This makes him neither a likeable nor sympathetic character. All of his actions are completely driven by other characters. Julie Christie, on the other hand, does a fantastic job of playing two characters on either end of the spectrum; one is well-read and driven, and the other is shallow and unintelligent. It was an interesting choice to cast the same actress in contrasting roles. It works well, though it might not seem like it would.


The visuals and effects are dated, but that is what creates most of the charm of the film. When the law is hunting for Montag, for example, policeman fly over a lake for an aerial view, and the men are obviously superimposed on a still background. It adds a bit of unintentional humor. On the other hand, some effects look strikingly realistic, especially when a man catches fire.
Ray Bradbury always claimed that he was not a science fiction writer, but Fahrenheit 451 is his most famous piece ever written, and it is viewed as one of the sci-fi classics. It’s interesting to see the past’s perception of the future versus how the future really turned out. We will hopefully never live in a world where books are illegal, but at least we have warnings like Fahrenheit 451 to ensure that our future is bright.