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Totalitarianism and total conformity
on July 26, 2015
I read George Orwell's novel about fifty years ago, and even though I've forgotten many of the details, it was one of those stories that stayed with me all those years. As best as I can remember, the 1984 film of the same name was fairly faithful to the novel, including the one scene I've never been able to get out of my head that involved Winston Smith's worst fear - rats. (It was terrifying in the novel, and it's equally gruesome in the film version.)
1984 is arguably one of the finest and most disturbing dystopian stories ever written. I enjoyed the film, although I'm not sure if "enjoyed" is the appropriate word. Thanks to the X-ray feature in Amazon Instant Video, I picked up some of the behind-the-scenes tidbits of the film, such as the fact that this was the last film for Richard Burton, who was very sick and weak during filming, and had a lot of trouble remembering his lines. And I came to thoroughly despise the voice of Phyllis Logan, whose incessant telescreen announcements praising Big Brother and Ingsoc (the ruling party) played in the background of many scenes.
The film really belonged to John Hurt and Suzanna Hamilton, who played two Outer Party members who became lovers and flouted all the rules. It's after they were caught and arrested that the story demonstrated just how brutally repressive and insistent on total conformity the ruling party was. There's no question that George Orwell had in mind the Nazis in Germany and the Communist party in the Soviet Union, but Ingsoc went even further than those two repressive regimes for its 24/7 control of people.
The tone of the film is grim, a picture of a dystopian future that's far from the idyllic utopia that people have yearned for and even predicted for the future.