“I revise history.” “That’s an unfortunate way of putting it. What you actually do is to rectify speeches and wrongly reported incidences.”
In the mid 60’s a nuclear war gave rise to three Superstates: Oceania, Eurasia, and East Asia. By 1984 London was named capital of Airstrip One, a province of Oceania. Oceania is at war with Eurasia. Oceania is overseen by the benevolent “Big Brother”. All activities are monitored 24-7 by Big Brother. Monitors and microphones are everywhere. Rules and regulations must be strictly followed. Any activity that is considered subversive could label you as a traitor and subject you to rehabilitation by the “Ministry of Love” or death.
Winston Smith (Edmond O’Brien) is a clerk at the “Ministry of Truth” and is a member of the Outer Party. It is his job to review newspaper articles and eliminate any references to persons deemed as traitors. Smith smuggles a small black diary into his apartment. Away from the all seeing eye he writes down his inner most subversive thoughts. Several times he has seen a woman he believes could be following him. He suspects she may be a member of the “Thought Police”.
Winston browses through a junk shop looking at all the objects from before the war that are now thought of as useless. The woman he suspects of following him enters the shop. In a panic Winston runs from the store and is stopped by the police. They order him to report to Administration the next morning. At the Administration a party officer reprimands Winston for socializing with the “common masses”.
At a required political “Two Minute Hate” rally the woman who he suspects of following him passes him a note. Her name is Julia (Jan Sterling) and she professes her love for him. They arrange to meet outside of London and away from the all seeing monitors of Big Brother. Against the rules of the “Anti-Sex League” they make love. Falling in love is against the law. They decide to rent a room at the junk shop so they can meet in secret. Together they join the Underground. Back in their room at the junk shop they believe they are safe from prying eyes and ears only to find out that Big Brother has been watching them all the time.
“1984” was released in 1956 and was directed by Michael Anderson. George Orwell's dystopian political novel Nineteen Eighty-Four has been adapted for the cinema, radio, television, theatre, opera and ballet. It is based on the book by George Orwell written in 1949. Just seven years before the movie was made. Orwell died in 1950 of tuberculosis.
Sonia Orwell, widow of George Orwell, objected to the changed ending. She withdrew the rights to the movie 20 years later after the original copyright expired and had the movie withdrawn from circulation. Of course bootleg copies abounded.
It is a dark and dreary film. The 1956 version of 1984 has an advantage over other versions done later. Since it was released only seven years after Orwell wrote the book, it represents a 50’s version of what an 80’s post war world would look like. Even though it is about the future it is knee deep in actual post war happenings. WWII ended in 1945. The fear of communism and totalitarian socialism was still in people’s mindset and is reflected heavily in the movie. Food shortages, air raid sirens and lock step images were well known by audiences of the time.
Today people can find similar concerns from the world of Orwell. “Fake news” and “Russian Troll Farms’ is the “Ministry of Truth”. The “Two Minutes Hate” is internet trolls and flash mobs. “Big Brother” is internet data collection by Cambridge Analytica, phones with GPS and cars with On-star. Although, in some ways, today we seem to be giving our freedoms away more than we are holding them close. 1984 seems to be always relevant. Apparently resistance IS futile.
**Spoilers: There are reportedly two endings to the film. The UK version ends with a defiant Winston Smith and Julia being executed by the authorities. The US version is more faithful to Orwell's book and concludes with Winston and Julia being brainwashed into becoming loyal followers of "Big Brother."**