What it missing in the movie, plainly, are Orwell's brilliant essays in the novel on ''Newspeak,'' ''doublethink,'' ''INGSOC,'' or on the ingeniously devised Goldstein, the regime's Antichrist on whom everything that goes wrong is blamed - Goldstein playing Trotsky, in short, to Big Brother's Stalin. (Trotsky's real name was Bronstein). Orwell, after all, was not a major novelist or teller of tales and his towering strength lay in his essays and memoirs: ''Hommage to Catalonia,'' ''Down and Out in London and Paris,'' ''A Hanging,'' ''Shooting an Elephant.''
The world of Orwell's ''1984'' is divided into three social classes: Proles (animal-like proletarians), Outer Party (Smith), and Inner Party (O'Brien). It is also divided into three countries - Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia - which are in a vacillating state of war with one another because, since the age of opulence-for-all would otherwise have arrived, this is necessary in order to preserve material differences between the classes and to maintain the Inner Party in power.
But all this discourse, despite writer-director Michael Radford's evident intelligence, is probably impossible to dramatize. The novel's most celebrated lines are INGSOC's ominous maxim: ''Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past.'' But even this Radford was unable to work into the dialogue, and it serves as the movie's epigraph.
What is also missing in the film, inevitably, is a sense of the historical moment when the novel appeared. Few books in history can have been published at a more auspicious time than ''1984.'' There was the blockade of Berlin, the Prague Coup, the explosion of the first Soviet atomic bomb, the communist victory in China, the attack in Korea. The onset of the Cold War created a voracious appetite in the West for works explaining ''the Communist mind.'' For a decade or more ''1984'' became almost the definitive popular work on the subject.
Any number of pundits have claimed that ''1984'' is a warning to America today, that with our computers and electronic surveillance systems ''1984'' is almost upon us. The most cursory study of Orwell's life, journals, letters, essays, and of ''1984'' itself (which contains score after score of roadsigns) reveals that Orwell was possessed of the most bitter hatred of the Soviet Union and Communism, a system which aspired to total control over its citizens. It was the totalitarian lust to control men's minds that so alarmed Orwell, not simple information-retrieval systems.
It seems almost forgotten now that Orwell wrote under the dark spell of the famed Moscow Trials (1936 to 1938), trials in which one eminent Soviet leader after another confessed to crimes which they not only had not committed, but which defied plausibility. Orwell, although never a Communist, was a radical leftist who fought in the Spanish Civil War in the brigades of the Anarchist-Syndidalists, surely a revolutionary faction. He was both fascinated and horrified by what was happening in Moscow. How could men of such strength and dedication confess to such incredible crimes?
Now Orwell had never lived in a totalitarian state. He had seen at first hand Communist ruthlessness in Spain, but what a Communist regime would do to prepare eminent ''deviationists'' for a show trial he had to infer from his perception from the outside of the totalitarian mentality - which thirsted not only to penetrate all branches of society and to repress all dissent, but to crush ''the revolt within the skull.''
Anyone watching even the film of ''1984'' realizes that he is seeing Orwell's nightmare vision of what the future might hold. At the end of ''1984'' - both novel and movie - Winston Smith not only accepts his death as a sacrifice for the Party but welcomes it ardently, having lost all sense of his own identity. The novel's last lines are:
''He was in the public dock, confessing everything, implicating everybody. He was walking down the white-tiled corridor, with the feeling of walking in sunlight, and an armed guard at his back. The long-hoped-for bullet was entering his brain. . . But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.''
Orwell's vision was simply monstrous. Extrapolating from his experiences in Spain and from what he had learned in England of Soviet behavior, Orwell felt that a Communist system which attained world dominion and went to its logical limits might seek to destroy memory, the meaning of language, independent thought, individuality - everything that makes a human being a human being. The world would be populated with mindless robots.
As it happens, this nightmare vision has remained merely that - at least so far. We now know that in the Communist show trials throughout the Soviet bloc the accused ''confessed'' far more banally, through fear of torture or of retaliation against their friends and family. Some were tricked, thinking that if they ''confessed'' they would be spared. Former Comintern chief Grigori Zinoviev, having made an elaborate and ostentatious confession during the most celebrated of the Moscow Trials, took it all back as he stood before Stalin's executioners and shouted that ''fascists'' were in power in Moscow.
But Orwell's vision has aborted in a way that is more significant and almost reassuring. Some of the results are now in from the two most tightly controlled societies of modern history, Stalin's and Mao's China - both of which were able to sustain maximum ferocity, interestingly, for just about two and a half decades. In neither case, and despite the most violent efforts, was the regime able to come anywhere near ''destroying memory.'' Documents now abound proving, at least over this time span, that the consciousness of a people cannot be annihilated.
Many witnesses have had the occasion to observe both the Soviet Union and China during periods in which ''thought control'' was in sharp regression. People were terrified into silence by Stalin in the USSR and by Mao and the Red Guards in China, these witnesses testify, but their memory and identity were not destroyed. The value of ''1984'' is not as prophecy but as a teaching model on the tendencies implicit in totalitarian tyranny.
Orwell is most famous, of course, from the Spanish Civil War onwards, for having ''penetrated the Communist mind.'' But - and this is very bizarre - he had great difficulty in picturing Nazi Germany as a comparable evil. On return to Britain from Spain, and sensing the approach of war between the western democracies and Hitler, he was furiously opposed, planning, when war broke out, to go into the anti-war underground, a positive British Weatherperson.
It was only when the war actually started in September 1939, that he came to his senses, an awakening made easier for him by the fact that Germany was now allied with the hated Soviet Union. He preserved a stunned silence for several months, but when next heard from, he had already volunteered to fight for his country. Rejected by the Army because of his tubercular condition, he joined the Home Guard.
One of Orwell's most extraordinary essays is his brilliant analysis of Kipling, in which he says that a writer can never be fully responsible unless he identifies at least partially with authority, with those who bear the grave weight of command. And yet it took the bugle call and the roll of drums and the news that his country and the other western democracies were fighting for their lives to make George Orwell realize where his deepest duty lay. It was the biggest lesson, but he had learned it at last. When the enemy shifted from Germany to the Soviet Union he was ready.
Anyone tempted to play the game called ''If George Orwell Were Alive Today . . .,'' and who thinks the writer might have become a neutralist at a substantial distance from both super-powers, might do well to read his ''Defense of Comrade Zilliacus,'' published in 1948, the year of the Berlin blockade and two years before his death. He says therein:
''Surely, if one is going to write about foreign policy at all, there is one question that should be answered plainly. It is: 'If you had to choose between Russia and America, which would you choose?'' . . .in spite of all the fashionable chatter of the moment, everyone knows in his heart that we should choose America.''Continue reading the main story
Comparison of Film and Book 1984
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Comparison of a Film and Book
After reading the book and watching the movie 1984 there were similarities and differences between the two. The novel is about manipulating people in believing in something that isn’t really there and about erasing history. Both the book and film focused on: authority, government, and war. The book and film follow the theme of conformity to control society.
Authority was used as a form of intimidation between the working class societies and to keep society from corruption. The authority figures mentioned in the book and film were the thought police, “Big Brother”, and the tele. The thought police were in charge of capturing the people who did things that were forbidden and against the laws of the government. Some of the laws that the society couldn’t go against were having impure thoughts, overthrowing the government, and not loving or believing in “Big Brother”. In which committing these crimes are punishable by death. Authority was used to conform and control society.
The government portrayed in the book as well as in the film is referred to as “Big Brother” the mastermind of establishing a totalitarian government. A totalitarian government is a single party that rules over everything and is superior to everyone. The totalitarian government was created to prevent corruption in the society and keep the people believing in what “Big Brother” wants them to believe. “Big Brother” kept the society in believing his reality by intimidation and brain washing. Also the lack of privacy was enforced by the use of surveillance like system known as the tele. The involvement of the government helped in conforming and controlling the society.
The war contributed to making the working class society believe that they were doing they’re part in helping “Big Brother” stop corruption and keeping the society in an orderly state. Big Brother manipulated the society by making up a war using previous pictures and images of a war that happened years ago. The war was also used to erase existing history that the government did not want the society to know. Furthermore, the war was used to keep the government and economy as the basis of power and maintain the balance of “Big Brother’s civilization”. The war mentioned in the film and book led to a conformed and controlled society.
The film and book 1984 focused on the theme conformity to explain how society was controlled by mentioning the enforcement of authority.
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Authority was used as a form of intimidation to the society as a way of preventing corruption. Another method the book and film mentioned was the involvement of the government. The involvement of the government helped the society to be controlled and conformed by persuading the people to believe in their reality and manipulating the people to follow the government no matter what the circumstances were. Also the government convinced the people that a war was actually occurring. The war manipulated the society in believing that they were helping the government stop corruption, but in actuality the people were being used and controlled to benefit the government’s own needs.