Nineteen Eighty-Four

A review by Mike Shea   Movie Rating: ( * * * * · )    DVD Rating: ( * * * · · )

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1984 is perhaps the most important book of the 20th century. I became aware of Orwell's prophecies after discovering his essay, "The Politics of the English Language". If you have not read it, do so. If you have not read 1984 since high school, read it next. I'm sure you were far too busy trying to look up Molly's skirt in your English class to understand it back then, so give it another go.

We don't live in Oceania today, but we are well on our way. We hear Doublespeak with every Microsoft ad. We hear fancy terms used to hide murder. For three years we have been in a constant war against enemies we cannot find and do not understand.

War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength

1984 has saved us from becoming Oceania. "Big Brother" is a term used every day against propaganda like the "Patriot" act. People focus on the lack of privacy in Orwell's future but they miss a far darker aspect - the lack of freedom of thought. Freedom is knowing that two plus two equals four. This is not about how much porn is on your computer or whether or not your boss watches you IM your friends at work. This is about our right to think, to speak, to write.

Groups like the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America destroy speech for the almighty dollar and they use their unlimited budgets and the legal system to control what you see and what you hear. The Patriot Act, the MPAA rating system, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the onslaught of lawsuits between multi-billion dollar corporate entities and 14 year old kids listening to music. Moral minorities pressure politicians to censor video games, music, movies, and books while we are sedated by Darma and Greg and Friends. If you do nothing else, read 1984. It is proof that the pen is mightier than the sword.

The film of 1984 is a good companion to the book but does not substitute it at all. Vital passages were omitted, vital thoughts of Winston Smith are removed. Anyone who does not know the book will not understand the movie and will probably be bored to tears. The movie was filmed in London in 1984 and does an excellent job of visualizing Orwell's grey world. The acting is wonderful and the writing refreshingly minimalist. It is impossible to capture Orwell's book but the film comes close.

The DVD of 1984 is good but lacking. The 1.85 to 1 16x9 enhanced picture is a good capture of the original film. The sound is in Dolby Pro-Logic but requires little else, except the clearer dialog you get in Dolby Digital. There are no extras of note.

1984 is a critical piece of our world. It is my favorite book. It uses the vehicle of fiction to warn us of a very dangerous future. Ask North Korea if you do not think it can happen. It can. The DVD of 1984 is very good b ut I beg of you to read the book instead.