(1966)3.5Derek ArmstrongFrançois Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451 brings Ray Bradbury's big-brother world into crisp focus, employing a thought-provoking production design full of muted technicolor and almost entirely devoid of written language -- even the opening credits are spoken. The quashing of intellectualism in the interest of lulling the masses into contented enslavement makes wonderfully portentous subject matter for Truffaut's confident first strides into English filmmaking. The coiled fire-breathing dragon that serves as the fire department's icon comments both on the routine dominance of the ruling regime and its blindness toward its own oppressiveness; no self-aware, PR-conscious thought police would represent itself through such monstrous imagery. All of the images in Truffaut's film take on this chilling deadness, with glimpses of the lovingly worn contraband books providing the only link to a lost era of deep thinking and human sensitivity. The dual role played by Julie Christie is a fascinating way to handle Oskar Werner's struggle between his patterned duties and his yearning for a new life; his past and future are slightly altered versions of each other, similar on the surface yet radically different in subtextual meaning. Provocatively, Truffaut's film even doubles as a self-critical screed against the cinema, so empty and insipid are the moving images the citizens are permitted to consume, and so fondly substantial are the volumes they are systematically denied. If any film can seduce its viewers into picking up Jean-Paul Sartre, this one can.