984 1984 (1984)

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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zedz
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Re: 986-1984

#26 Post by zedz » Tue Apr 16, 2019 4:05 pm

colinr0380 wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 1:25 am
It is definitely about authoritarianism and totalitarianism but with the interesting twist that instead of treated as interchangeable cogs in the machinery the process is much more insidious and personally focused with everyone is being urged to 'play their part' in the running of the society (whilst still remaining interchangeable and 'disappearable' on an individual level). The power structures are in the process of being internalised: dictionaries are having their 'flowery' poetic words discarded in favour of ever dwindling amounts of practical compound words; children are encouraged to inform on their parents; the television screen is not a one way interaction any more, is unable to be turned off and everyone watches the same few shows collectively (like Britain's Got Talent! or a Marvel movie!). News is manufactured to order with the conceit that nobody remembers the news from yesterday anyway, so any new story is possible. The power of 1984 is that you can apply it to anything that comes after it from Mao's China and the Little Red Book to Thatcher's "there's no such thing as society" to Trump's 'fake news'! Even 'body fascism' of the state getting more involved in the mechanics of your body and monitoring everything that you say, watch and eat, perhaps more for their benefit than for your own health. And it still has weird resonances today: for example that recent home cycling advert is astoundingly unaware of how uncomfortably (and presumably unintentionally?) it is reminiscent of a certain exercise scene in the film!

Its an excellent film, though unavoidably the source material has been such a big influence on many dystopian sci-fi films both before and since (Alphaville, Brazil, THX-1138, that Fifteen Million Merits episode of Black Mirror) that have all taken the basic material and added a new twist on it whilst this adaptation is relatively straight forward. Though that makes it perhaps all the necessary, as well as the bleakest version of any: at least those other films allowed for some form of escape. No car chase, even a stunted one based on economic cost-benefit analysis here (which is where THX-1138 is at its best, as money matters do not really factor into 1984 and they form the whole basis of the finale of the Lucas film!) before stumbling out of your shackles to an uncertain future in 1984. No escape even into your own head, as it is your own head that is the 'threat' to the society that needs to be dealt with. (Your own freedom of having your own thoughts about your situation; your allegiances with others that may sustain you through the hardest time; your inherited belief systems that suggest a brighter or darker future ahead to strive for or against; the common sense knowledge of how the world works and that 2+2=4)

It is not enough that you submit in public but might think differently in private, but that you do not have any existence at all outside of the one assigned to you. And that allows your existence to change entirely depending on the whims of others.

It is perhaps John Hurt's finest role. Suzanna Hamilton is amazing too, and of course Richard Burton has the perfect mix of gruff father and dispassionate bureaucrat as he breaks Winston (and the structure of society) down and re-builds him in the final section.
Further to this, I was always under the impression that Orwell was being as critical of wartime and post-war England as he was of fascist and Communist states. There's a strong whiff of British wartime propaganda in the novel and a lot of the language manipulation in the world of the novel is based on his own experience at the BBC (and his wife's at the Censorship department of the Ministry of Information).

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domino harvey
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Re: 984-1984

#27 Post by domino harvey » Tue Apr 16, 2019 4:07 pm

Well, now this is the model number of a keyless entry system sold on Autozone, so is this a W or an L?

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swo17
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Re: 984-1984

#28 Post by swo17 » Tue Apr 16, 2019 4:09 pm

This sounds like one of those made up numbers

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knives
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Re: 984-1984

#29 Post by knives » Tue Apr 16, 2019 4:14 pm

zedz wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 4:05 pm
Further to this, I was always under the impression that Orwell was being as critical of wartime and post-war England as he was of fascist and Communist states. There's a strong whiff of British wartime propaganda in the novel and a lot of the language manipulation in the world of the novel is based on his own experience at the BBC (and his wife's at the Censorship department of the Ministry of Information).
If I remember correctly he even made statements to that effect. 1984 is unquestionably about England which is why nostalgia plays such an important role in the book. More than even the political element the questions relating to memory and a sense of history are key to the book and are far more fleshed out. In certain respects the book is immature as a political piece highlighted by the really poorly written fuck fest that amounts to his political rebellion with the intelligence of Orwell focused on things like a man reminiscing obnoxiously about the time before everything was switched to metric.

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colinr0380
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Re: 984+1=1984

#30 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Apr 16, 2019 4:38 pm

Plus rationing did not end in the UK until 1954 and National Service went on until the 1st January 1961. So the effects of the war lingered well into the next generation. J.G. Ballard of course being another sci-fi author whose experiences of that post-war era made him see both the present and the future in a different light.

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furbicide
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Re: 986-1984

#31 Post by furbicide » Tue Apr 16, 2019 11:47 pm

Big Ben wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 9:40 pm
That all being said how is the film? I'm a fan of the novel and Orwell but I've not seen it. Deakins is obviously a big draw for me as well.
I reckon it's a brilliant and really underrated film. Rare for a filmed adaptation to so perfectly inhabit the world of the book in its mood and feeling, and John Hurt is just magnificent.

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hearthesilence
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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#32 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Apr 17, 2019 9:24 am

I was able to catch a 35mm screening at BAM some years back and was surprised by how good it was.

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tarpilot
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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#33 Post by tarpilot » Wed Apr 17, 2019 11:53 am

Good grief, that copy. This release could really use a reprint of Amusing Ourselves to Death
In 1985, Neil Postman wrote:We had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another--slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity, and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.

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MichaelB
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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#34 Post by MichaelB » Wed Apr 17, 2019 2:19 pm

That description powerfully reminded me of Michel Houellebecq's recent novel Soumission, in which France voluntarily submits to an Islamist government thanks to a repeat of the 2002/2017 Presidential election scenarios (only this time the Front National is defeated by a charismatic Islamist) - and the most unsettling thing about the novel is the calm equanimity with which its characters eventually accept this. It's not just technology that undoes people's capacities to think.

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Gregory
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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#35 Post by Gregory » Wed Apr 17, 2019 4:16 pm

I haven't read the Postman book in ages, but he seems to seriously oversimplify Orwell in that portion. Orwell understood perfectly well that "The really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip," as he had written, and the novel is about how the state creates well-trained subjects. "Big Brother" is the face of the Party propaganda, but the actual workings of the power structure controlling Oceania are ultimately insignificant because Orwell's characters themselves are so embedded in the process of spreading and perpetuating "the truth." It's a much more nuanced understanding of state power than what Postman allows when he writes simply that "Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us."
Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing.
There are several things wrong there, I think, but one is that Orwell did not prophesy anything with 1984. Instead, the book was a warning of what could come to pass.

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tarpilot
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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#36 Post by tarpilot » Wed Apr 17, 2019 6:44 pm

Certainly an oversimplification, and it's on me for dropping a quote from the introduction like that, but at issue in his book is that the state creating well-trained subjects at all isn't what Western democracies--strictly what he was talking about--should have been guarding against. Not that we would be spreading and perpetuating any particular truths, but that unchecked pleasure-seeking in new technologies would render us unable to recognize what truth is, if it exists, or worse, that we'd be too doped-up to care whether we could.

Put another way, running the risk of my own oversimplification, the most pressing question today prompted by Milgram's Obedience to Authority seems to be not the degree to which the participants were coerced into inflicting what they thought was pain on their fellows, but how many may have made Milgram think they were for teh lulz.

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Mr Sausage
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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#37 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Apr 18, 2019 6:23 am

Sounds like Juvenal's bread and circuses quote, just at greater length.

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tarpilot
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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#38 Post by tarpilot » Thu Apr 18, 2019 7:15 am

As backhanded comparisons go, I doubt he'd have appreciated one more.

Maybe miniMumford.

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Lowry_Sam
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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#39 Post by Lowry_Sam » Thu Apr 18, 2019 3:44 pm

I was a bit disappointed when TT released this because I really thought this was a title Criterion should have picked up, but now that it has & given the time Criterion could have put into improving upon previous releases, I’m still disappointed. First I was hoping for a 2-disc version with the more colourful version & Eurythmics soundtrack on one and the more dour director approved version on the other with either a commentary track or doc on the differences ala what was done for the “Love Conquers All” version of Brazil.

When the film came out it seemed to come & go w/out much fanfare around the film itself. I remember much more attention to the book and Orwell in the press in 1984 than to the film. The attachment of a popular musical group to the soundtrack didn’t seem to do anything either as there were only 2 songs from the soundtrack to have lyrics (and only one of those chart in the US, and as it was, not one of their best songs). But when you think about it, the book is a pretty dour lot, so if a film is true to the source (which I think it was) it doesn’t make for a very “entertaining” film. Contrast 1984 to Brazil which at least had plenty of dark humor to alleviate the dark message underlying the film. The other problem of the film is that the core of Orwell’s message in the book is not about Communsim or Capitalism, but about the means by which authoritarianism wields power (namely through the control over language and information). A film about language is not particularly sexy, given that it’s going to be marketed as science fiction (Brazil was also more entertaining because of its action and fantasy sequences), though I think 1984 succeeds here more than Fahrenheit 451 did.

Then there should also be something, either commentary track or doc, on just the Postman academic argument over Brave New World vs. 1984 itself, as it’s been discussed a lot recently [a NYT article, Brooke Gladstone’s book The Trouble With Reality...] in the context of Trump & whether the world is seeing a resurgence in fascism.

I find it hard to believe that there aren’t any documentaries on Orwell out there. Surely the BBC has produced at least one that could be used.

Then there’s the 1956 production of 1984 featuring Michael Redgrave and the 1954 BBC TV production featuring Donald Pleasance & Peter Cushing which would make excellent bonus films. Maybe either Indicator or the BFI can rectify things, with their own version.

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colinr0380
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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#40 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Apr 18, 2019 4:36 pm

I would also love to see the BBC version at some point but it feels that it has been announced and disappeared from schedules so often over the years that there must be some major problem with getting it to disc. Presumably rights, but then Criterion had licensed BBC material before so if not them, then presumably nobody can!

I really like Brazil but in some ways the comedy softens the blow despite the bleak ending there. The power of this adaptation of 1984 is that because it is a 'prestige' adaptation it is allowed to be relentlessly bleak in the way nothing else could be. (Though I would really love it if Criterion could somehow release the original un-special effect enhanced version of THX-1138 some time to fill out the roster of 1984-influenced films!). It has been a long time since last reading it but I always got the impression that Brave New World was a lot more about biology (cloning, DNA-meddling, fiddling with human reproduction) rather than many of the 1984 issues of how people are ground down by the mechanisms of the societies in which they toil and instead of tearing the system down end up throwing each other to the wolves for a little extension to an unfulfilled life instead.

I do not really recall any documentary about George Orwell recently. The nearest to a serious discussion of themes contained in sci-fi literature on UK television is probably the series of three New Nightmares programmes that accompanied the Movie Nightmares season back in 1993 on Channel 4: two of those have turned up on YouTube recently: Nature Says No and Them.

A shame to hear about the soundtrack controversy. I had not been aware of that before and agree that it would have been wonderful to have both versions of the film included. I quite like the Eurythmics songs: Sexcrime (very 1980s!) and Julia (used for the end credits, at least in the version I have recorded from television from back in the mid-90s).
Last edited by colinr0380 on Thu Apr 18, 2019 6:52 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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hearthesilence
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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#41 Post by hearthesilence » Thu Apr 18, 2019 5:04 pm

I get the impression that the film's reputation grew quite a bit decades after its release for two main reasons:

1) the innovative bleach bypass process became massively influential, but not right away - it was really a decade later that you started seeing that look everywhere, in commercials and music videos as well as feature films

2) the source material may have seemed dated until the '00s when to our misfortunate it came back with a vengeance, beginning with the war on terror which seemed to use it as a playbook. I only say it was dated because I recall reading numerous end of century assessments of 20th century literature where some writers actually felt that the novel seemed more like a historical artifact thanks to the end of the Cold War among many other world events.

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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#42 Post by Lowry_Sam » Thu Apr 18, 2019 6:19 pm

1984 was another of Virgin Records/Richard Branson’s forays into film, most of which had musical tie-ins: Absolute Beginners, Great Rock N Roll Swindle, Electric Dreams, Corrupt [US]/Copkiller[UK]. The 1980s really saw cross platform marketing take off, film/soundtrack tie-ins almost became obligatory for studio productions, particularly for something w/ youth appeal. I do remember discussion of the Eurythmics soundtrack in the popular press at the time & recall that it was essential to the film getting made, though I believe there were plans for more artists than just the Eurythmics, but that The Eurythmics’ only soundtrack was a compromise, hence only 2 actual songs from them with lyrics on their soundtrack. That being said, in spite of it fitting into the sci-fi genre, the subject matter is still the antithesis of your typical youth-oriented studio film, and so the final product is a bastard child of the mating of art and commerce, with the director’s approved version an attempt to correct things.

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Gregory
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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#43 Post by Gregory » Thu Apr 18, 2019 6:33 pm

Lowry_Sam wrote:
Thu Apr 18, 2019 3:44 pm
Then there’s the 1956 production of 1984 featuring Michael Redgrave and the 1954 BBC TV production featuring Donald Pleasance & Peter Cushing which would make excellent bonus films. Maybe either Indicator or the BFI can rectify things, with their own version.
I'd be amazed to see it happen, but the 1956 "adaptation" could be potentially a fascinating bonus film, considering that it was secretly funded by the CIA and changed crucial features of the Orwell novel to make it a Cold War anticommunist propaganda film, manipulating or even reversing Orwell's intentions. There were even two different endings used: one for American audiences and another for British viewers. (I saw this on VHS and don't recall the ending exactly but presumably it was the American one.)

Also, it was an amazing turn of events that Michael Redgrave ended up costarring in the production, as Orwell himself had named him on his snitch list of people who "are crypto-communists, fellow-travellers or inclined that way and should not be trusted as propagandists."

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colinr0380
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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#44 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Apr 18, 2019 6:44 pm

It is also really interesting to contrast the relationship between Winston and Julia in 1984 with the earlier couple in Orwell's novel Keep The Aspidistra Flying.

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371229
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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#45 Post by 371229 » Fri Apr 19, 2019 2:38 pm

Hmmm, speaking of Keep The Aspidistra Flying, I wish Criterion could get their hands on Robert Bierman's film A Merry War (1997). That's another great Orwell adaptation that has never been released on blu ray... and I fear, sadly forgotten.

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Buttery Jeb
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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#46 Post by Buttery Jeb » Fri Apr 26, 2019 1:52 pm

Not sure if it's been mentioned before, but Criterion now has the film listed as being available with both scores (the Eurythmics, and the one by Dominic Muldowney).

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Roscoe
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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#47 Post by Roscoe » Fri Apr 26, 2019 2:43 pm

Thanks for the heads up -- I'm surprised they didn't have that set up long ago.

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swo17
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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#48 Post by swo17 » Fri Apr 26, 2019 2:44 pm

I thought the Eurythmics version was supposed to be tied to a whole different cut of the film with brighter color timing

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furbicide
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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#49 Post by furbicide » Sat Apr 27, 2019 6:12 am

Buttery Jeb wrote:
Fri Apr 26, 2019 1:52 pm
Not sure if it's been mentioned before, but Criterion now has the film listed as being available with both scores (the Eurythmics, and the one by Dominic Muldowney).
That's great news – much more interested in picking it up now.

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Re: 984 1984 (1984)

#50 Post by MichaelB » Sat Apr 27, 2019 5:35 pm

Lowry_Sam wrote:
Thu Apr 18, 2019 3:44 pm
Then there’s the 1956 production of 1984 featuring Michael Redgrave and the 1954 BBC TV production featuring Donald Pleasance & Peter Cushing which would make excellent bonus films. Maybe either Indicator or the BFI can rectify things, with their own version.
The BFI's been raring to go with the BBC version for years, even to the point of prematurely announcing it - but I understand the Orwell estate then stepped in.

But Orwell's work enters the public domain at the end of 2020, so it shouldn't be too long to wait now.

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