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1984 Criterion Blu-ray Review


“1984” is an admirable adaptation.

Set in a dystopian universe in the year 1984, the film adaptation of George Orwell’s classic novel follows a man named Winston Smith who works as a newspeak writer for the Ministry of Truth in the totalitarian society of Oceania. Winston is not just another citizen, however, as he is haunted by the past, interested in writing, and, eventually, falls in love with a rebellious woman named Julia. Winston’s pleasures are short lived, however, as the surveillance state is on to Winston’s actions.

It goes without saying that George Orwell’s “1984” is one of the greatest novels ever written. It remains a prophetic and relevant piece of sci-fi about Government control, individuality, freedom, truth, propaganda, politics, war, diversions, and much, much more. The “1984” film adaptation (which was released in the year 1984) doesn’t quite capture the depth and characterization of the novel, but writer/director Michael Radford makes a valiant effort nonetheless.

What stands out most about this film version is just how bleak it is. Radford really leans into that which is what makes this movie stand-out. One could argue that the tone hampers everything around it from the characters to the drama, but I’d argue that is how Radford makes the material his own here as he builds the world within the story, explores the deep subjects, and tells the story through the eyes of Winston.

Aiding Radford in his vision is a great production design team and, of course, the striking cinematography by Roger Deakins. Deakins might very well be the greatest cinematographer of all time and his work here only backs that up. He paints such a picture with the intentionally drab and colorless visuals depicting the world of Oceania. Along with Radford’s direction, Deakins really makes you buy into this dystopian nightmare.

“1984” is largely comprised of just three main characters with Winston (the late great John Hurt), Julia (Suzanna Hamilton) and O’Brien (Richard Burton) and all 3 cast members are fully committed to the roles and excel in their parts. Richard Burton’s eerily cold O’Brien is haunting, John Hurt goes through quite the character arc and hellish journey as Winston, and Suzanna Hamilton shines as the bold Julia.


Presentation: 1.85:1 1080p. How does it look? The 4K digital restoration is impressive. The cinematography by Roger Deakins has never looked better.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? From the moody score to the dialogue, this is a crisp audio track.

* A fold-out booklet featuring a poster and an essay by author A.L. Kennedy.
* The option to pick one of two scores by the Eurthymics and Dominic Muldowney
* A 21 minute interview with “George Orwell On Screen” author David Ryan. He talks about Orwell, the various versions of “1984” on screen, the differences between the novel and the film, the themes of Orwell’s work, and more.
* “Behind The Scenes”- A nearly 5 minute extra containing set footage and interviews with the cast and director.
* A newly recorded 20 minute interview with Roger Deakins who talks about the limitations of the production, the visual style, Michael Radford, his past, behind-the-scenes tidbits, etc.
* A passionate newly recorded 22 minute interview with director Michael Radford who talks about his career, “1984,” the production of the film adaptation, Richard Burton, and other topics I won’t spoil.

August 3, 2019 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , , ,

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