Wednesday, February 15, 2017

1984

Year 9, Day 45 - 2/14/17 - Movie #2,545

BEFORE: I suppose nobody would have faulted me if I had skipped a day, or spread the four-hour film "Cleopatra" over two nights so it would fall on Valentine's Day.  But I pushed myself, because I haven't really blocked out March yet, so I don't know if I'll need the extra day when late March rolls around.  For linking I had a couple of options, including linking from "Cleopatra" to "Camelot" via Laurence Naismith.  I could also have dropped in another film with both Richard Burton and Liz Taylor, such as "The Sandpiper" or "The Taming of the Shrew" (which would have fit with the whole historical progression thing, cavemen to medieval knights to Shakespeare...).

But I don't have those films handy, and I've already seen "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", so I'm fast-forwarding to the dystopian future of "1984", even though that future year is now thirty years in the past, so it's a future that was envisioned by George Orwell in the 1940's, but never really came to pass.  Or...did it?  There are a lot of social media posts going around, suggesting that perhaps Orwell was spot on, just perhaps off by a few years.  More on that later, I think.  And Orwell's book is back on the best-seller list, currently #1 on Amazon.

Richard Burton carries over from "Cleopatra", and here's your TCM "31 Days of Oscar" schedule for tomorrow, February 15:
6:45 AM Little Women (1949)
9:00 AM Logan's Run (1975)
11:15 AM Lolita (1961)
2:15 PM The Long Voyage Home (1940)
4:15 PM Look for the Silver Lining (1949)
6:30 PM The Lost Patrol (1934)
8:00 PM The Lost Weekend (1945)
9:45 PM Love Affair (1939)
11:15 PM Love Me or Leave Me (1955)
1:30 AM Lust for Life (1956)
4:00 AM Madame Bovary (1949)

A little post-Valentine's Day programming, no doubt, with a couple films beginning with "Love", and also the word "Lust", a topic also covered in "Lolita", right?  I'm hitting four out of 11 tonight - "Logan's Run", "Lolita", "The Lost Weekend" and "Lust for Life", bringing my record up to 63 seen out of 164.


THE PLOT: In a totalitarian future society, a man whose daily work is rewriting history.

AFTER: Well, if last night hearkened back to history class, tonight it's English lit - or maybe it's civics?  Either way, I felt it would be relevant this year to explore the concept of love in a fascist society, because I have a feeling this sort of thing could be important over the next few years.  I doubt there are many mixed marriages (Democrat/Republican) taking place in the U.S. these days - and the ones that already exist may not be likely to survive.  We were a divided country before, and now we're split more than ever (and guys, if you went to the Women's March a few weeks ago to meet girls, then you probably missed the whole point...).

If you weren't forced to read "1984" in high-school, and also never got to it on your own, it's about an imagined totalitarian society where any thoughts critical of the government are not allowed - they're called "thoughtcrimes" and while you might think that such crimes would be very difficult to prove, Big Brother has such a hold on the country's citizens ("proles", short for "proletariat") that they usually WANT to dispel their errant thoughts, so that they can feel cleansed afterwards, in a process similar to Catholic confession.  While in modern America, anyone (including the President) is free to use social media to publicly shame anyone who holds a dissenting opinion, on any one of a number of social issues.  Is it really such a leap to go from "If you don't agree with me, you're an IDIOT" to "If you don't agree with the President, you're an enemy of the state"?

The main character, Winston Smith, holds a low-level government job where he rewrites history.  While these days, we have people who put their "spins" on the headlines.  And haven't we noticed in the last few years that numerous members of certain political parties will go on TV in the same week and somehow all use the same phrase as a "talking point"?  Like "Radical Islam" or "traditional marriage" or "immigration reform" - the chances are incredibly against all of these people coming up with the same phrase at the same time, so that means it was handed down by the party leaders.  In Orwell's world they called it "newspeak", meaning a new, reduced way of talking ("good-plus" instead of "better") but we might as well call it "news-speak" in our own present.

The political party in "1984" (and there seems to be only one, so therefore a dictatorship) also sets out to define its own reality - through a process called "doublethink".  Black is white if the government says it's so, and when the war with Eurasia turns into the war with Eastasia instead, the party line becomes "We've always been at war with Eastasia."  Yep, you guessed it, the government is really presenting "alternative facts".

But in the middle of all of this, Winston finds himself attracted to a woman, another Party member who also works at the Ministry of Truth, even though the government is pushing for people to take vows of chastity, or even better, to sterilize themselves.  They go on a field trip outside of London, and then he rents a room above an antique shop where they can meet clandestinely, away from the secret cameras and microphones of Big Brother, or so they think.

A while later, Winston is approached by O'Brien, someone who he believes to be working to take down the government from inside, and O'Brien gives him a pamphlet explaining why Oceania keeps itself in a state of perpetual war, because this allows them to keep the populace afraid all the time, and also to ration all food and supplies. But is the war real?  Is Goldstein, the supposed enemy of the state, real, or just a puppet used to channel and uncover all of the people's wayward thoughts of rebellion?  Since anyone who commits thought-crimes is tortured into confessing, the answers are never clear, and that's the point.

With the emphasis on IngSoc (English Socialism), Orwell was probably most interested in taking the threat of Russian Communism and super-imposing it on the London of his times, but it's possible that he accidentally hit upon some larger truths, like the fact that it's possible to find love during a fascist regime, but it's also very difficult to hang on to it. I think that's the takeaway.

Also starring John Hurt (last seen in "The Elephant Man"), Suzanna Hamilton (last seen in "Out of Africa"), Cyril Cusack (last seen in "King Lear"), Gregor Fisher, James Walker, Andrew Wilde (last seen in "The Bounty"), John Boswell, and the voice of Phyllis Logan.

RATING: 5 out of 10 unpersons

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