I have to admit I wasn’t too thrilled with either the book or movie adaptation of Fahrenheit 451. Mostly I’ve heard of it referenced in relation to other similar dystopian future novels featuring an authoritative government and a controlled passive citizenry. I never really saw the appeal, although I did recently read 1984 and liked it. In Fahrenheit 451, the story is centered on Montag, who’s job as a fireman is to burn books. Inevitably, conflicted about his work, he steals and hides books from the homes he’s sent to. I liked the story, it was okay and the ending was really good. But as Montag begins to read through the books he’s hidden, much of the text ends up being quotes from classic works of literature. Not only does it pull away from the story it started to feel like a chore to read.
On this rare occasion I actually preferred the movie to the book. Except for the one major issue. The movie really emphasizes the lack of text and reading in this world and maybe takes it a little too far. Their newspapers are depicted as pages of pictures only and even work personnel files are simply pictures of the worker at different angles. So how in this world where there’s no way to encounter words does Montag, of all people a fireman, even know how to read. The book doesn’t portray the world as completely lacking the written word, just no books. That makes it much more believable than the movie where there is literally not one written word in this society.
Ignoring that it was a good movie. I enjoyed watching it more than I enjoyed reading the book. Best scene had to be the guys flying around on jetpacks. The movie was made in 1966, so their idea of what the future would look like and the effects to create it are pretty damn funny. They made some minor changes to the story, and the ending was slightly different but it was a pretty good adaptation of the book.
I’d like to say that I went into this with a fresh unbiased perception, but the idea to even read the book and watch the movie was because of what I’d heard about them. While I’d only heard good things about the book, the movie was often criticized. It’s pretty common for readers to dislike and slam movie adaptations. In some cases the criticism is well deserved but many times it’s simply because of deviations from the source material. There’s also the simple truth that it’s pretty much impossible to encompass a novel into a feature length film.
In this case I think the biggest problem is that the story isn’t as exciting or interesting if you already know the ending. The book was suspenseful because it centered around a murder mystery. Personally, I loved the book. It’s a little bit of a slow start but once I got started I finished it in a matter of days. It was structured perfectly to build up to the climax. The changing point of view and back and forth through the timeline helped build the suspense. The reader is kept in anticipation, while slowly unraveling the chain of events that led to Megan’s murder. It’s told at an excellent pace, revealing just enough to keep you interested while still leading to unexpected twists.
As for the movie, after reading the book the whole mystery aspect is lost making it harder to capture my attention and the suspense of the story. However, I do think the movie could have been better. It didn’t really maximize on the suspense aspect of the story. In the opening scene we already know most of the details of Rachel’s past. In the movie the story seems to go too fast. I also think the structure of the story didn’t translate well on the screen. The nonlinear structure and changes in point of view worked well in the book, it lent to the mystery, dropping clues here and there. In the movie it just didn’t have the same effect. I think one of the biggest problems came at the climax of the story. In the movie it was very abrupt and I didn’t see as much of the foreshadowing we got in the book. I suspect if hadn’t read the book first I might have enjoyed the movie a bit more. Attempting to put my bias aside, I still have to say that the movie could have been better.