The apple of knowledge opens and closes Francois Truffaut's 1966 film adaptation of Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse pops in blues and rouge while all the other characters wears black and monochrome. And all throughout the film, the viewer is confronted with an oppressive and enormous red -- the iconic red wall of the fire station, the red of the truck, the red on Clarisse's jacket when she and Montag set a list of names on fire -- dangerous, fiery, and likely politically-charged given Truffaut's own leanings at the time. Two years later, his contemporary (and then friend) Jean-Luc Goddard reinterprets the same color in La Chinoise.
Politics comes to mind when I watch this film -- the book burning, the absolute obedience demanded upon the masses, the systematic brainwashing -- do we champion the triumph of the individual or of the collective? It's hard to watch this film and not remember China, to not make a connection between the schoolhouse scene of children repeating the multiplication table and my own experience in preschool in Shanghai. For years, I believed that Vladimir Lenin single-handedly saved a burning village.
While Truffaut very obviously champion the celebration of the individual (as is, at least philosophically, in most Western societies), he does leave his viewers to wonder what happens in the end when all is for the self.
After Montag escapes to The Book People, he meets a number of individuals who like he, preferred knowledge over obedience. They dedicate their lives to memorizing books -- the twins of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, the tattered gentleman of Niccolò Machiavelli'sThe Prince, and so on.
Truffaut ends the film with these various characters walking around their forest, repeating the lines of their chosen books, like the school children who repeated the multiplication tables from earlier in the film. So what is the purpose of an education? I wonder. What is knowledge and what is action? Will these book people use what they know? Or will they resort to...do nothing? I don't remember if Bradbury answered this and I'm not certain that Truffaut didn't bring this question up deliberately.
Bits & Pieces
A place for experimentation, a place for pieces unpolished and unpublished, a place to work out thoughts and ideas for larger collections. Typos aplenty. Enjoy (or not).