Visualizing the “Shadow World”: Dystopian Reality in the Film Adaptations of Nineteen Eighty-Four: Urszula Terentowicz-Fotyga
Visualizing the “Shadow World”: Dystopian Reality in the Film Adaptations of Nineteen Eighty-Four
This essay compares the construction of dystopian reality in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four with that in its two screen adaptations: the 1956 film produced by Columbia and directed by Michael Anderson and the 1984 version written and directed by Michael Radford. Despite the canonical status of the novel and the relative popularity of the films, critical material on the adaptations is surprisingly sparse. Comparative analyses of the two adaptations are Erica Gottlieb’s “Orwell’s Satirical Vision on the Screen: The Film Versions of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four” and R. Barton Palmer’s “Imagining the Future, Contemplating the Past: The Screen Versions of 1984. ” Gottlieb and Palmer, in contrast with the majority of the films’ reviewers, consider the first adaptation more successful and resonant with Orwell’s political ideas. Gottlieb praises it for “the coherent, suspenseful plot of a political thriller in the form of a reliable black-and-white B movie” (252). Palmer argues that like Orwell’s novel, it “speaks to the future […] engaging real fears and issuing something in the nature of a warning” (177-178). While both criticise Michael Radford’s adaptation, they find in it strikingly different faults. Gottlieb claims that “the sophisticated special effects of a modern sci-fi movie […] combined with the surrealism of a proletcult Bunuel” (252) do not provide a sufficiently recognisable analogy with the historical reality that Orwell was evoking and thus fail to communicate the writer’s ideas. Palmer, on...
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