Nineteen Eighty-Four (sometimes 1984) is a British film based upon the 1949 novel of the same name by George Orwell; the film was made in the year imagined by the author.
The film was shot in and around London between April and June 1984. Some scenes were shot on the actual days noted in Winston Smith's diary (for example: April 4, 1984). Nineteen Eighty-Four stars John Hurt as Winston Smith and Richard Burton as O'Brien, and was directed by Michael Radford. English actress Suzanna Hamilton was cast as Julia, the late Irish actor Cyril Cusack appeared as Mr. Charrington, and the Scottish comedian, Gregor Fisher, appeared as Parsons. O'Brien was Burton's last movie role and the film is dedicated to his memory.
Michael Radford and cinematographer Roger Deakins originally wanted to shoot the film in black and white, but the financial backers of the production, Virgin Films, opposed this idea. Instead Deakins used a little-known film processing technique called Bleach bypass to create the distinctive washed-out look of the film's color visuals.
Winston Smith endures a squalid existence in the totalitarian superstate of Oceania under the constant surveillance of the Thought Police. The story takes place in London, the capital of the territory of Airstrip One (Britain) and the seat of the central government of Oceania.
Winston works in a cubicle at the Ministry of Truth, rewriting history in accordance with the agenda of the Party which rules Oceania under its supreme figurehead, Big Brother. A man haunted by painful memories and restless desires, Winston is a malcontent who keeps a secret diary of his private thoughts, thus committing thoughtcrime — the crime of independent thought contrary to the aims of the Party.
His life takes a fatal turn when he is accosted by a fellow Outer Party worker — a mysterious, bold-looking young woman named Julia — and they begin an illicit affair. Their first meeting takes place in the remote countryside where they exchange subversive ideas and enjoy a sexual encounter. Shortly after, Winston rents a room above a pawn shop where they continue their liaison. Julia, a sensual, free-spirited woman, procures contraband food and clothing for them, and for a brief few months they secretly meet and enjoy an idyllic life of relative freedom and contentment together.
It all comes to an end when they are betrayed by Charrington, the elderly proprietor of the pawn shop, who reveals himself to be a spy. Without warning, the Thought Police raid the flat and arrest the two of them.
Winston and Julia are then separated and taken away to be detained, questioned and rehabilitated. Winston is taken to the Ministry of Love, where he is systematically tortured and brainwashed by O'Brien, a high-ranking member of the Inner Party whom Winston had previously believed to be a fellow thoughtcriminal.
O'Brien gives Winston didactic instruction about the state's true purpose as well a kind of epistemological catechism involving a practical application of doublethink — i.e., the holding of two contradictory thoughts at the same time through a subtle method of self-induced amnesia and acquired, willful self-deception (this is the true meaning behind the Party's third slogan, "Ignorance is Strength", which thus validates the illogic of the first two slogans, "War is Peace" and "Freedom is Slavery"). Doublethink specifically entails a cognitive suspension, or blotting out, of self-evident truths and memories in favor of manifestly counterfactual information and absurd logical paradoxes.
For his final rehabilitation, Winston is brought to Room 101, where O'Brien tells him he will be subjected to the "worst thing in the world". When confronted with this unbearable horror, Winston's resistance finally and irretrievably breaks down, and he repudiates his allegiance to Julia. Now completely subjugated and purged of any rebellious thoughts, impulses, or personal attachments, Winston is restored to physical health and released.
Winston returns to the Chestnut Tree Café, where he had previously seen the rehabilitated thought criminals Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford — once prominent but later disgraced members of the Inner Party — who have since been "vaporised" and rendered unpersons. While sitting at the chess table, Winston is approached by Julia, who has also been brainwashed and rehabilitated. They share a bottle of Victory Gin and unemotionally exchange a few words about how they have betrayed each other.
After Julia leaves, Winston watches a broadcast of himself on the telescreen, effusively confessing his "crimes" against the state and imploring forgiveness in the humbled and remorseful manner of a prodigal son come back to the fold.
Upon hearing a news report declaring the Oceanian army's utter rout of the enemy Eurasian forces in North Africa, Winston silently and tearfully professes his gratitude and love for Big Brother as he anticipates the date of his execution. Having been deprived of his freedom to think and feel, and reduced to a mere shell of a man, Winston is soon to be deprived of his very physical existence as well; and he now welcomes his final subjugation to the absolute power and supremacy of the state.
Following his death, any evidence that he ever existed at all will be systematically purged from every public record and each individual's memory. He will, in effect, become an unperson in the collective orthodox mind of the Party and its faithful workers.
Differences from novel
* The film features a salute which never was used in the novel. It is done by holding one's arms up and making the wrists cross each other in the shape of a small V. A similar salute is seen in the film, Pink Floyd The Wall.
* In the book, the Ministry of Plenty is called miniplenty in the Newspeak; in the film its Newspeak name is miniprod, which suggests that its full name is "Ministry of Production". Also, Winston's working place, which is called the Records Department in the novel, is referred to as minirec ("Ministry of Records") in the Newspeak language of the film.
* In the film, Inner and Outer Party members call each other "brother" or "sister" instead of "comrade" as in the novel.
Sonia Brownell, Orwell's widow, owned the film rights to her late husband's famed novel. Shortly before her death in 1980, Brownell eventually agreed to allow the film to be produced only under the condition that no futuristic special effects be used.
The glowering, ever-watchful visage of Big Brother was provided by Bob Flag, a non-professional who was cast in the role after answering an open-casting call by the filmmakers in London.
For the role of O'Brien, Paul Scofield, Anthony Hopkins, and Sean Connery were all previously considered. Richard Burton joined the production six weeks into its shooting schedule.
As locations for a contemporary vision of totalitarian Britain, the practical use of famous historical sites around London like Alexandra Palace and the Battersea Power Station appears to have been intended in a somewhat satirical manner.
The monumental ruins of Alexandra Palace in Muswell Hill, Haringey, North London were used as the location for the Two Minutes Hate rallies. Originally built in 1873 as a "pleasure palace of the people" and named after the Princess of Wales, Alexandra Palace was destroyed by fire a fortnight after opening. The present building was built in 1875 and survived for a century until it was gutted by fire in 1980. The remaining roofless shell provided the structure for Victory Square.
The famous disused Battersea Power Station in Wandsworth, central South London served as the façade for the Victory Mansions, and the Beckton Gasworks in the vast, decaying Docklands of East London — an area that had withstood the Blitz during World War II and which has changed little since that time — was used as the setting for the proletarian zones.
In contrast, the idyllic, dreamlike "Golden Country", where Winston and Julia repair for their first tryst and which recurs in Winston's fantasies, was filmed in the southwest county of Wiltshire at a natural circle of hills called "The Roundway", near the town of Devizes.
Virgin Films (formerly part of the Virgin Group), who financed the film, commissioned Eurythmics to produce the music for the soundtrack. Director Michael Radford objected to Virgin's insistence on using the more pop-oriented electronic Eurythmics music, as the traditional orchestral score originally intended for the film had been composed entirely by Dominic Muldowney a few months earlier.
Against Radford's wishes, Virgin Films exercised their right of final cut and replaced Muldowney's musical cues with the new Eurythmics' contributions. One Eurythmics song (a wistful, haunting ballad, "Julia") was also heard in its entirety during the film's closing credits. However, Muldowney's main theme music (particularly the state anthem, "Oceania, 'tis for thee") was still prominently featured in the film. In November 1984, Virgin Records released the Eurythmics soundtrack album, featuring considerably altered versions of their music heard in the film, under the title 1984 (For the Love of Big Brother).
During his acceptance speech at the Evening Standard British Film Awards, Radford openly expressed his displeasure with Virgin's decision and claimed that the Eurythmics music had been "foisted" on his film. Radford had disowned Virgin's edit of the film featuring the mixed Eurythmics/Muldowney score, yet when Nineteen Eighty-Four made its theatrical debut in October 1984 in London and January 1985 in New York this was the version released in wide circulation. Michael Radford withdrew the film from consideration at the BAFTA awards in protest of Virgin's decision to change the musical score.
In 1999, Dominic Muldowney's complete orchestral score (24 tracks in total) was released on a special limited edition CD album under the title Nineteen Eighty-Four: The Music of Oceania, to commemorate the film's fifteenth anniversary. The CD booklet featured previously unseen production photographs and artwork as well as liner notes by Radford.
On the subsequent MGM DVD release in North America in 2003, the film's colour is restored to a normal level of saturation and the Eurythmics contributions to the score were removed entirely and replaced with Muldowney's musical cues as Radford had originally intended — although both Eurythmics and Muldowney are still jointly credited in the opening and closing titles. This version had previously been shown by Channel 4 in the UK in the late-1980s. However, the MGM DVD release of the film in the UK in 2004 features the mixed Eurythmics/Muldowney soundtrack on the English- and French-language audio tracks as well as the original desaturated visuals.
The film won the Best British Film of the Year award at the Evening Standard British Film Awards.