1984 : I Love Story
John Hurt and Richard Burton Deliver the Chilling Amore
Winston Smith is in love. Who new 1984 could uplift in this manner and was filled with such joyous schlock? Well, it's not, but John Hurt conveys the contentment to chilling perfection in Michael Radford’s 1984 adaptation of the Orwell masterpiece.
Set against a baron and bare necessitated population on the brink – and under complete submission - Winston doubts his own amorous feelings. So much so, that he thinks, he dreams, he regrets and takes a lover who isn't big brother.
Going through the constricting motions designated by INSOC (English Socialism), the film marks the despair with a distinct lack of dialogue. As such, Winston’s jaundiced face continually succumbs to the weight of unending big brotherly directive. All this while yearning for meaning, he's bewildered by conformity as his sullen eyes search for a kindred spirit.
In denial, Winston’s mixed feelings are an easy read and unobtrusively noted in the glancing looks of key party member O’Brien. Played by Richard Burton in his final role, the regime’s unchallenged form of control is blatantly evoked in the faces of the film’s children.
Well fed and self-righteously guarding the revolution, their judgmental leers provide a subtle terror among the masses and do justice to the all encompassing presence engendered in the literary version.
That is until the unassuming leadership deems it time to officially intervene and put the stops on any activity that threatens the state. An approach methodically applied, the state ensnares the victim in an inescapable web.
In this case, Richard Burton incrementally draws in Winston. So a smooth metamorphosis is made from father figure offering revolutionary hope and replaced with that of a state sanctioned undertaker. Chillingly, the transformation all occurs from the legendary English actor with no discernible change in tone or temperament.
But in actuality, for INSOC’s purposes, Burton’s place is positioned as high priest. For those who’ve never read the book, it’s not enough for dissidents to simply die and become "forgotten as a nameless number on a list which was later mislaid."
The outed must freely come to understand their own failings before demonstrating unconditional love of Big Brother. A selfless act achieved by freely submitting themselves for confession and ultimately execution.
Thus, it follows that pleading to be killed to end the pain does not serve the needs of the state. The same goes for laying down lies to placate the tormentors.
The pigeon primed for plucking, Richard Burton masterfully inflicts pain. On a crude rack, O'Brien carefully nurtures Winston toward the state's three main truths : War is Peace, Slavery is Freedom and Ignorance is Strength
A broken body and Winston not ready to submit, O’Brien is also pragmatic in his persuasions. In other words, the government official openly declares that man will eventually triumph over the organism known as INSOC, and that he is simply playing the role history has bestowed.
The point is then well taken as O'Brien stands Winston up in front of the mirror as “the last man on earth” and even handedly rips a tooth from the prisoner's head.
Winston is now ready for Room 101, and the final consummation of his love. A different form of terror for each dissenter, O’Brien knows rats are Winston’s Achilles Heel. Leaving this to your imagination, no defense is imaginable for the victim.
Thus, Winston wishes the nightmare on the human love that led him to his ultimate fate. “Do it to Julia,” he relents in total submission.
Winston's destiny is complete for the love of his life, and all that awaits is the bullet to the back of the head.
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Studio : 20th Century Fox