Fr : version française / En: english version

mheu, Historical Museum of the Urban Environment

Fahrenheit 451

François Truffaut

1h 52mins
© MK2

View this work in the Fire exhibition

The work

Fahrenheit 451 is the movie adaptation of Ray Bradbury's novel of the same name. The title alludes to the combustion temperature of paper (232°C). This science fiction novel describes a society in which books are prohibited. Firemen-police are responsible for flushing out violators of the reading ban and publicly burning to ashes any books they find. One of the fireman, out of curiosity, eventually rescues David Copperfield from the auto-da-fé and reads it. From that point on he is obsessed with reading and becomes an outlaw, even joining the resistance, where he meets fugitives who are each responsible for learning one book by heart in order to preserve the world's literary heritage. The novel is a savage indictment of the ubiquity of images and television, going so far as to imagine interactive programs that resemble our reality television programs. But it is primarily a magnificent albeit Manichean plea on behalf of literature and the freedom of thought it fosters.

It may seem somewhat of a paradox that the book-lover François Truffaut chose to adapt this one for the screen. Actually, as this analysis of the film expresses quite well (in French), Truffaut had reconciled "books and the screen, which could not live without one another if they were to condemn one another, can no longer do without each other, as they proclaim their freedom together and affirm their humanity."

The artist

A French filmmaker born in Paris on February 6, 1932. An only child neglected by his parents, young François developed a consuming passion for the cinema very early on. He whiled away solitary afternoons in front of the screen and was marked forever by the masterpieces shown at his neighborhood movie theatre, especially Abel Gance's Paradise Lost. It was 1940, and he was eight years old!

During his teen years Truffaut even started a ciné-club, in 1947. However, his repeated attempts to run away and his wanderings raised the specter of delinquency, and he fell afoul of the law. André Bazin and his wife were of great assistance to him at the time, both materially and emotionally.

In 1950, Truffaut even went so far as to join the army. He was quickly convicted of desertion and locked up, before reforming! He worked full time as a movie critic for Les cahiers du cinema film magazine, where he met Rossellini, an important event in his life. In 1957 he created his own production company, Les films du carrosse, which gave Godard, Rohmer, Pialat and others their start. (It was Truffaut who wrote the basic outline for Breathless, turning it over to Godard later on). After making three shorts, he shot his first full-length feature at the age of 27. Some 21 films would follow over a 23-year career, sometimes involving two shoots a year! Truffaut's career was marked by passion and exacting standards. A real militant, he laid the foundation for the New Wave and introduced a new way to produce, write, film and direct actors. Throughout his short life (he died in 1984), François Truffaut offered us the sympathetic regard of a gentle man. All of his films ask us questions about women, men, childhood, death, movies—in short, about life!