Monday, November 14, 2016

Fahrenheit 451 marks its 50th year with little fanfare

By Erik Bean

Fahrenheit 451 Wanted Scene 1966
Original View, Copyright 1966 Pinewood Studios, Fahrenheit 451
Minstead Gardens in Alton Estates (See below for same area in 2016).
With little fanfare, and certainly barely nothing more than a blog or two like this one, the 50th anniversary of what many view as the most significant and seminal dystopian film of all time, has arrived. Ray Bradbury’s powerful 1953 novel, Fahrenheit 451 was released on film via the extraordinary direction of Francois Truffaut, his only English speaking film on November 14, 1966.

What has been most striking after all these years are some of the truisms regarding society’s use of large screen televisions, let alone interactive ones, live broadcasts, and the availability and over consumption of drugs. But is that where the similarities to contemporary society stop? The premise is an ideology that like Orwell’s 1984 big brother (or in the case of 451, cousins) is/are watching everyone for it is incumbent upon all citizens to disavow reading books. “Books make people anti-social” says protagonist Guy Montag (Oskar Werner), a fireman whose job is to find and burn all books, yet was so consumed by this role, he ultimately succumbed to it.

A society that ultimately tries to control all forms of media, including what they watch on TV is not a free society. The recent U.S. election raises questions that have plagued society for decades, media bias and control by the powerful and elite, the haves and have nots. An entertaining film starring Julie Christie who plays two roles, Montag’s monorail friend and wannabee teacher Clarisse and conforming wife Linda who ultimately betrays him after he ultimately betrays her and his government by reading the books he was supposed to destroy.

Clarisse, a new teacher on probation is removed from her job after introducing books to her young students, but whose desire to be well read aligns with Montag. How they connect in the end is left for your pursuit. But you know they end up together in a section of town where the book people live. This is after all a love story. One at the very end offers no explanation as to why the two never kiss.

Even so we can be enamored in the amazing job Truffaut and his site selection team did. They were able to secure usage of a mysterious under-track 1958 SAFEGE monorail we’d all would have enjoyed a ride on. Today, it lies as a dilapidated and ransacked Paris suburban relic left rotting after allegedly only having been operational for one year several years prior to the film making. And yet other parts of the film owe what was a small but quite western London suburb a history worth noting. 

The first scene where the first books were thrown from what appears to be a contemporary yet unsettling municipal housing apartment project was shot at RoeHampton University, but it wasn’t a university until 1975. Some websites report that Dunbridge House was it. I recently had an opportunity to gratefully visit the area after presenting at the 2016 Customer Experience Summit.

Winchfield House, 10-20-16, a comfortable looking
suburban London housing project. Photo by Erik Bean.

According to locals, however, that first scene was shot at Winchfield House. Regardless, among one of the film’s most eerily famous scenes occurs after Montag murders his fire chief and the citizens call on all people to be aware he is on the loose. 

Here, at Minstead Gardens in Alton Estates lies a single set of one story contemporary attached condominium style apartments, the unique mise en scene (setting). 
Today? They still look as interesting as they did for their selection more than 50 years ago. It’s as if time stood still. And the kicker? No plaque, no notation, not even a small sign that 451 was ever there.

Fahrenheit 451 Wanted Scene 2016
Minstead Gardens, 10-20-16, RoeHampton, Photo by Erik Bean.
So why can we all still be so enamored with this story? This film?  After two and half generations? We can be enamored with Bradbury’s predictive mind that could place such current societal objects and obsessions as the central theme. Such objects that are still affecting society in ways we still don’t know or can’t predict, a window into the worst and best society can yield. With challenges faced in the U.S. and abroad, a dystopian future we hope never comes true. Indeed, Fahrenheit 451 marks its 50th year with little fanfare.


  1. The film Fahrenheit 451 was a very interesting film. Although the storyline seemed familiar to me, it still did well to keep my attention. While watching the film, I witnessed government control, the effects of curiosity and even betrayal from a wife to a husband. The government control within the film displays extreme propaganda by making laws that prohibit the reading of books. In order to keep the citizens busy, the government provided all citizens with unlimited access to all types of drugs, which distorted their ability to function with common sense. However, those who did not intake drugs unnecessarily indulged in illegally reading books. Even Montag, a firefighter who worked to catch people who read and to burn books, took on the activity of reading for himself. Montag read book after book, becoming more interested in learning more after each one. Unfortunately, his drug-addicted wife was the one to report him to fire department. This surely surprised me and showed me that through fear one will make sure to protect his or herself first despite vows of loyalty to another. Nevertheless, the best part of the film was to see that Montag and Clarisse were not the only people that pursue more knowledge. In the end of the film, a secret area was revealed where other people lived together reading and memorizing books, becoming the book itself. The meaning I received from the ending is that that there is never one outlier; in fact, are many outliers who all have their own skills that can be used to create change. Therefore, it is important to pursue your dreams because there will always be someone there, close or far, that supports what you do.

  2. Fahrenheit 451 was a very interesting movie. The movie shows similarity when it comes to reality government, and the movies government. Also shows how rules, and politics can ruin families, and tare friendships apart. The movie amazed me how things thought of in 1966 came to life in the years of early 2000's. Most important, the movie proves how people really do stand up for what they believe even if it could put them in danger - which happens in many countries day by day. However, in the movie i didnt agree with montags wife going against him. As wife and husband through rough times they should still stand by eachother side. Overall its interesting to see how a world would be if drugs were given out freely with no problems, which i dont agree with that because just like in the movie people will abuse what is handed freely.- Dimond Landers0

  3. Fahrenheit 451 was a movie filled with emotions, it was an intriguing film. The movie is set in a society where people are not allowed to read books,yet have big screen televisions and other necessities to occupy their spare time. The movie shows how society is run on a dictatorship whereas if there is a crime committed those who have been found guilty will get a cruel judgement. In the movie one thing that was twisted throughout the movie is how the main character Montag's wife turned him in because she realized he was reading books and that it was breaking the law. Society now in 2016 is not so different from when the movie was created back in 1966, because people nowadays have all these new innovations, where they don't bother to look a hard copy book since everything is online, or how they have applications on the smartphones. Rakib Ali Eng 119

  4. The film Fahrenheit 451, illustrates a Dystopian society where books were burned because they contained ideas, induced certain thoughts, and threaten authority within the society. In regards, the government exposed TV as everyone’s drug of choice and people were brainwashed by everything they saw on Tv just like Montag’s wife. The broad message that was conveying, was that an individual's independent thinking was basically illegal at the point. It truly fascinated me to see the movie which was made in 1966 compared to this "vision" of the future and how we can compare it to now. I thought that one of the major themes in the film was Government Vs. The People’s Freedom. For instance, there was a woman in the movie that burned herself with her books because she wasn't willing to give up her books and see them burn. The only way to get out her situation was to get burned to the ground with her books. This science fiction film made thinking in a different perspective because I found it very weird and different from other films that I have watched.
    Aysha Begum

  5. The Fahrenheit 451 movie gave be a very nostalgic memory of my first semester in high school fahrenheit 451 was the first book I ever wrote an essay on and to watch the movie in my first semester of college is very ironic. The very obvious differences from the book are that the names of the characters have been changed, most notably Mildred, Montag’s wife, who is called Linda in the film. The relationship between Montag and Mildred is much more passionate than in the book. Faber the character that helps and advises Montag does not appear in the film at all, the only possible resemblance is the man in the park who hides books. I find that leaving out this character, the film also lacks a lot of very important and explanatory scenes. The Hound is also omitted in the movie. Clarisse does not escape, on the contrary she dies, but it is not included in the film. The “parlor walls” are not televisions but a four wall room. However, the scenes and characters that are found both in the film and the book are almost identical. Characters are perfectly exposed just like in the book. Some dialogues seem to have been “cut and copy”. Overall, not all the scenes and characters from the book can be found in the film, but those that can be found in the film are true to the book. I have enjoyed the movie as much as I did when I read the book. My rating would have to be a strong 4.5/5.

  6. The film Fahrenheit 451 was an eye opener for me, because it really made me see how the world is today. The film made me realize the government really does have everyone brainwashed. Fahrenheit 451 was based on a dystopian future, Where the government did not want anyone to read books so they gave everyone Big TVs and broadcast shows with subliminal messages. In todays society the government is doing The same thing by providing reality shows,the internet and social media. You can read books online now. People don't go to the library and check out a book, they go to the library to get online and research, instead of checking out books. This is what our world has come to.

  7. Watching Fahrenheit 451 I felt very guilty. I know that it is my job to read and educate myself and I also know that I do not do it as often as I should. The movie reminded me that television is there as a time waster, entertainment, and sometimes a stimulant to mind control. I thought back on all the things that I saw in the movie and the hardest part to see was the lady being burned live with her books. I thought to myself, "This is inhumane, all over books?". Then I started to think that I am very appreciative of the privileges that I have and that I really should look at all the great things I can do to to be more productive and willing to learn. I believe that the message of Fahrenheit 451 is education and the government. The government can set out serious restricting laws at any time, by that being said this movie is futuristic and possible to happen.

  8. After watching Fahrenheit 451 i learned and understood that back then in the dystopian society it was really difficult for one to read or keep a book. Being able to have big TV screens and drugs and not being able to read a book left me in shock. In today's society there are books online you can get better than having to go to a library or store. Fahrenheit 451 taught me to fight for what i believe in even though the society might think different. We should not believe what the government says because sometimes one person can make a difference for the better. - Laila Thabet English 119

  9. Watching Fahrenheit 451 taught me a lot. One thing this movie taught me is to be grateful. Back in the days books were not allowed and for those reasons many lacked a lot of knowledge. I mean while reading is not everyone first choice it still is very important that you read. Montag was a very brave guy and stood up for what he felt was right. Montag also took risks that nobody else would even far as putting his job on the line. Montag wife was iffy she kind of just went with the flow. Over this movie was good and Dr. Bean really love this movie as well. -ARLEATA GIVHAN

  10. The movie Fahrenheit 451 was about a dystopian society where books were forbidden, and burned. People who loved to read books were also fired. Mission of all the firemen was to burn houses to burn books at 451o F temperature. It was an oppressive society where books have been outlawed by a government fearing. Government allowed people to watch TV but not reading books. Books have ideas and knowledge, which is a threat to the government. Ideas and knowledge make people question how things are, makes people see the faults in the world. The government take the full control of society and people allowed themselves to be the victim of it.

    Fahmida Tonni

  11. The movie Fahrenheit 451 was about a dystopian society where the government bande books because they don't want the people to get knowledge from reading books and books make you think out the box. But there's a twist to it the government gives the people drugs to use and they are television in which the people watch shows to keep their minds away from books. And if you have hidden books the government has the fire department come of your house and search until they find the books. After that the gather up all the books burn them. The people need to stand up against the system and fight for what they believe in. ___ Ammar Algahim Eng 119

    1. The film Fahrenheit 451 was one movie that made me realize how much our society has had control over our minds since the late 60s. It's incredible to think how one could not read books but rely on interactive television in order to gain some type of knowledge,it's crazy to think people actually lived this way I couldn't imagine living in a dystopian society where reading books was illegal. Although this film was a great eye opener to myself and I think to many others as well, this film allowed me to think about how our government can trick the minds of young people through social media as well as through what we respond to. I believe that Ray Bradbury's 1953 novel is and will be
      one of the most deep and memorable events that have ever taken place in history. - Vanassa Roberts

  12. Fahrenheit 451 was a very interesting movie. The movie plot is in a dystopian society, where the government brainwashed all of its people. Books were forbidden and drugs were endless. The people of this society were given all the drugs they wanted but they were not allowed to read books. If books were found they were burned. This movie made me realize how much we neglect the opportunity to educate ourselves and read. We have many ways of getting books, whether it is going to the library, buying books at your local book store, or even downloading them on our smart phones yet we choose not to. Fahrenheit 451 taught me the importance of appreciating the privilege of easily being able to pick up a book and read.
    Amal Quteibi