In a totalitarian future society, Winston Smith, whose daily work is re-writing history, tries to rebel by falling in love.In a totalitarian future society, Winston Smith, whose daily work is re-writing history, tries to rebel by falling in love.In a totalitarian future society, Winston Smith, whose daily work is re-writing history, tries to rebel by falling in love.
Anyhow, the sets are grim, even the one outdoor scene is drained of any natural beauty, while the photography remains dull gray, as it should be given the dystopian subject matter. Then too, the two leads, O'Brien and Sterling, are not exactly marquee names. However, they are excellent actors, as the storyline requires—you don't want "movie stars" competing with the plot-heavy symbolism. In short, the production, though clearly economical, is pretty uncompromising.
Story-wise we're plunged into the middle of the dystopian society without much explanation of how it got that way or why. Instead, the narrative emphasizes the tools of thought control among Party members, who are subjected to all sorts of thought conditioning techniques, such as the histrionic hate sessions. Just how the non-party people live is not really portrayed. However, love may be forbidden among Party members, but I doubt that it was among the common people, otherwise how would re-population take place.
Besides dwelling on Winston's (O'Brien) efforts at contacting the political underground, the script dwells on the forbidden love affair between Winston and Julia (Sterling). And I had to laugh when Julia sheds her shapeless Party uniform for a flowing white gown right out of the Loretta Young Show of the time. This may be the movie's one concession to 1950's norms. The film does manage a few twists, one of which I didn't see coming. But, if I have one complaint, it's that Redgrave's high Party official lacks subtlety, in pretty much a one-note performance. This can be seen as a defect if you think about his official's changing roles.
Anyway, the film remains a visual oddity for then as well as now. However, its thought- control message, though crudely put, may be more relevant in our digitalized age than it was then. At the same time, this is one of the few subjects that I think needs a bigger budget remake to do it justice. I haven't seen the latest remake from 1984, so I can't comment on its worth. All in all, this version maintains a grimly narrow, but thought-provoking focus.
(In passing—having seen the movie on first release, I seem to remember the "rat cage" sequence as being longer, more detailed with glowing eyes, and much scarier than my DVD version. But then that was well over 50-years ago.)
- Dec 27, 2013