Ramin Bahrani’s HBO Movie ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Never Catches Fire [Review]

The Playlist | 5/17/2018 | Chris Barsanti
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In the art-free future-world of Ramin Bahrani’s “Fahrenheit 451,“ there are only three acceptable books: the Bible, “To the Lighthouse,” and “Moby-Dick.” These texts have been uploaded to “The Nine,” a ubiquitous future-web and all-swaddling social mediasphere that permeates every aspect of life. All other books, according to Fire Captain Beatty (Michael Shannon) “will make you sick, crazy.” Why the Book of Revelations or a demented metaphorical whale hunt are considered safe but Dostoevsky, Proust, and Morrison must burn is never quite explained.

There’s a lot left out in this noisy and luridly shot but thin adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s novel. A prescient fable about the death of the imagination and individuality in the postwar war, it imagines a world where the houses have all been fireproofed and firemen race through nighttime streets looking for books to burn. The protagonist Montag (Michael B. Jordan in Bahrani’s take) is a fireman who seemingly doesn’t question the credo outlawing books because they engendered unique thought and confusion, which made people upset. But he starts having problems with his job. One day, Montag goes home, and we discover that he has an entire stash of purloined books; echoes of a different time.

Montag - Head - Text - Screen - World

Existing mostly inside Montag’s head, it’s a devilishly tough text to visualize on screen, the outside world painted in vivid but none-too-specific impressionistic sweeps by Bradbury’s rich, vaulting language. When Francois Truffaut gave it a shot in 1966, he went for an arch and icy tone whose peculiarity didn’t much capture the book (Bradbury being too much of a red-blooded humanist) but had an oddball Cubist charm to it. Much like Ava DuVernay‘s lackluster “Wrinkle in Time,” Bahrani, who co-wrote the screenplay with Amir Naderi, doesn’t so much try to put his own spin on the book as he works to compensate...
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