Fahrenheit 451 (1966): Truffaut’s Political Film, Starring Oskar Werner and Julie Christie

One of Francois Truffaut’s few explicitly political films is nonetheless not one of his strongest, a result of a meandering, mildly involving narrative that lacks dramatic energy and may be too restrained as a sci-fi picture. The title refers to the temperature at which paper burns and the film obviously reflects Truffaut’s love for literature (and words).
Set in the future, the narrative, based on Ray Bradbury’s famous novel, centers on Montag (Oskar Werner, who was in Truffaut’s best film, “Jules et Jim”), a devoted “fireman” whose specialty is ferreting out books in obscure hiding places. However, after observing a woman sacrifice her life for her forbidden library, Montag decides to keep one book for himself out of curiosity; he doesn’t understand yet why books (and ideas) can be dangerous and threatening.
Otherwise, Montag lives a dull routine life as a civil servant, entrapped in a loveless married to a TV-addicted wife, Linda (Julie Christie). He is ignited to be a different, thinking man upon meeting a free-spirited, subversive schoolteacher named Clarisse (also played by Christie).
Despite narrative shortcomings, the film has thematic, visual and technical merits.
First and foremost, Truffaut extends his love for the magic of movies to the medium of literature.  Avid book readers, like movie lovers, perceive books as magical objects, valuable in themselves, whose merit is only partially based on their literary values (Truffaut would cherish even mediocre books, if they bring pleasure to their readers).
This was Truffaut’s first color film, shot by ace lenser Nicolas Roeg (who later became a director on his own right), boasting an indelible score by Bernard Herrmann, best known for his work for Hitchcock (“Vertigo,” Psycho”).
The acting of the leads is good. Playing two roles, Julie Christie was in 1966 the hottest actress in Hollywood, having won the Best Actress Oscar the year before for John Schlesinger’s “Darling.”
At the time, the film, which Truffaut’s first English-speaking work, was too severely criticized by reviewers, and was commercially a flop. However, seen from the today’s perspective, “Fahrenheit 451” is an underestimated film that demands a new evaluation.
Montag (Oskar Werner)
Linda/Clarissa (Julie Christie)
Captain (Cyril Cusack)
Anton Diffring (Fabian)
Man with apple (Jeremy Spenser)
Book Woman (Bee Duffell)
TV announcer (Gillian Lewis)
Doris (Ann Bell)
Helen (Carloine Hunt)
Jackie (Anna Polk)

Running Time: 104 Minutes