There were two ghosts that hung over the second half of the twentieth century: The novel 1984 and the wreck of the Titanic. It was the ghost of the future, and the ghost of the past.
Up until the year 1984 there was the constant fear that George Orwell's prophesy would prove correct - which, I suppose, was what Orwell had intended. There were times when the pendulum seemed to swing toward, and then away and then toward totalitarianism, even in the United States. By the time the year finally arrived, most people were no longer terrified of this phantom. And now you no longer have glib commentators invoking the image of a totalitarian future with the phrase "1984."
Growing up in the last third of the 20th century, the Titanic was like a mirror-image ghost of 1984, the past embalmed beneath the sea, preserving a world of grand innocence that died with World War I, or at least the image of innocence and grandeur that we projected upon it. Ironically, that ghost was exhumed two years later, in 1986, but it was not until the movie that it was finally exorcised through trivialization.
While I was disappointed with the movie Titanic, I was not disappointed with the movie Nineteen Eighty-Four. I do not know of a better rendition of a novel. I am amazed at how accurately the mood, imagery and even scenery of the movie matched the ones created in my mind by reading Orwell's novel several times since early adolescence. After all, these were my images, my subconscious, my fears. And yet here they were on the screen. It is a testament to Orwell's writing that he was able to create such vivid imagery that found its way faithfully into so many minds. And it is a testament to the film's producer; proof that a book can be transformed into a movie accurately. Judging from some of the other reviews, not everyone shares this view. But as I recall from my college lit classes, not everyone was capable of understanding every book, so could some of this be the reader-viewer's fault?
One detail in the movie that I found amusing was the depiction of computers. It was a melding of teletype keyboards from the 1940s with monitors using 1960s technology. I can't help thinking that that is the kind of computer technology we would have if government and the courts were to dictate the rules.
Freedom requires individual initiative unencumbered by government, as far as possible. However, corporations grown beyond control or accountability may be an even greater threat. The end of the Soviet Union, one of inspirations for 1984, is not the end of Big Brother. And, oddly, modern computer technology is only now creating the capability of producing true omnipresent paranoia. How many of us wonder, as we are sitting at out computers at work or at home, whether someone is watching our work?
If you are looking for sheer entertainment, Nineteen Eighty-Four will disappoint you. So, too, if you don't like "history." But even though the time is now in the past, the ghost may still be in the future. And for that reason, I hope people will still read the book AND watch this impeccable cinematic rendition of Orwell's masterpiece.
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