1984

This third film adaptation of George Orwell’s summer-reading standard is relentlessly faithful, meaning it’s no day at the beach. Director Michael Radford has visualized Oceania as a brackish, cluttered world of unrelieved grays and browns, inhabited by gray, skittering people who could pass for the anonymous workers in Metropolis. The moviemaking suggests a slow descent into a quiet, awful nightmare. When Winston Smith (the perfectly cast John Hurt) has a joyless one-night stand with some nameless, haggard woman, the experience is as chilling as it was in Orwell. Suzanna Hamilton, as Winston’s illicit lover Julia, gives an odd but appropriate performance that captures Julia’s revolutionary, sexual zeal. In his final screen role, Richard Burton is frightening and moving as the torturer O’Brien. If the movie falters anywhere, it’s in its handling of Room 101, which by definition can’t be as horrifying visually as it was in our mind’s eye. Still, a film of admirable integrity, with an Oscar-worthy turn by Hurt, who manages to find the desperate humor in Winston. Controversial score by the Eurythmics, who were brought in at the last minute (over Radford’s objections) when the initial score was dropped. The current DVD restores the original score and discards the Eurythmics songs.

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