Written by / 6/18/2017 / No comments / , , , ,

JOHN HURT & RICHARD BURTON IN GEORGE ORWELL'S 1984

John Hurt very belated Memorial from 1984 YEAR: 1984
Having grown up part of the original STAR WARS generation, it's impossible to not connect that story with even the most popular of classic futuristic novels that, in this case, proceeded the science-fiction phenom by decades. The question is: Would The Dark Side consider themselves The Dark Side? In their minds, they're right, not wrong... Right? Pure Light, not the absence of light...

In the 1984 version of the George Orwell adaptation of 1984, despite being purposefully overboard to capture the essence of symbolism, it's difficult to find anything lucrative about this particular totalitarian government in which most of the people are forcefully, methodically content: The dilapidated streets resemble bombarded post-War Germany, and on giant movie screens is the image of a man that looks like Adolf Hitler, somewhat, and there's no turning off the repetitious propaganda ranging from battle front updates to how much chocolate will cost "next week." Meanwhile, the people confess their "sins" to the leader and to "Big Brother," especially those who have read a book by a man named Goldstein (no, he doesn't play basketball at Carver High): his philosophy attempts to delete this horrendous future with no value whatsoever. Hell, there's not even a cool red lightsaber.

Nineteen-Eighty-Score: ***1/2
The movie, though, does have value, especially in the inspired casting of John Hurt as a man who looks part of the decaying exterior but with a subtle hope within a glimmer of his pale, baggy eyes, but that only we notice upfront, and yet, in the crowd, he blends right into the ragged woodwork. On a personal basis, relating to the character, by keeping a diary and having an affair with a beautiful young woman, he's more an independent thinker than he should be, or that he has the right to be in this New World Order. And writing this review in belated memorial of John Hurt's January 2017 passing, 1984 was, at the time, Richard Burton's last role before his death following the film's release. His part mostly takes place during the third act when Hurt's Winston Smith is tortured until he sees what he's supposed to see, not what he really sees... 

This part of the movie is rather slow, which is probably intentional. While we get a bellyful of the kind of propaganda citizens are force-fed with those screens that never turn off, the "Big Brother is watching you" aspect isn't as played out... at least not up front... to gain momentum and suspense. Rather, it's an ingrown "vibe" throughout. What's mainly centered on for the story's metronomic buildup is Winston's job inside a large gray office building: he rewrites history to suit the constant, word-spoken headlines. Like Phillip Kaufman showed the inside-out of how the Pods take over the world, in his own remake of a 1950's sci-fi thriller, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, director Michael Radford effectively shows the mechanics of this particular society to follow the monotonous chore of the leading character. Through John Hurt's Winston we learn everything about the masses. Or, more fitting, the mass. 

Oh why the hell not show this album cover dammit!
The best scenes take place during this first half where the scenery resembles a post apocalyptic yarn where a loner wanders around and, through grainy perspective, the audience can firsthand witness the ruins of a dead society gasping for breath... 

Twilight Time Blu Ray
Reportedly, on set, Burton could hardly remember his lines. In fact, his mental state was already known during pre-production, so the director initially didn't want him on board at all. If he was, in real life, somewhat "out of it," it wound up alright since the character has been programmed enough to be robotic by his own standards  despite the fact he does have an bit of intellectual, serpentine charm. Burton is known for his voice, and he's indeed The Voice here, providing an 11th hour exposition that derails the only break the film offers to the ongoing slow-burn punishment of the senses: That being Winston's affair with Julia, played by Suzanna Hamilton, bringing a surge of life to both the leading character and to an audience that, after a while, starts feeling completely part of the purgatory of this dilapidated, false utopia: In that... despite the sporadic use of shortcut arthouse imagery, and a diary narration serving those who read and reread the novel., 1984 The Movie succeeds and yet, between the lines, somewhat fails to stand completely on its own. 
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