Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Fahrenheit 451 (1966, UK)

In Francois Truffaut's first color film, and his first (and only) English-language film, with a haunting thematic score by Bernard Herrmann - it was a screen adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic 1953 science fiction book, a cautionary tale foretelling an ominous, dystopic future, with rows of identical, manicured suburban houses and obedient, conformist middle-class occupants:

  • the inventive opening credits sequence in which the titles were spoken, not written, by the off-screen voice-over of Alex Scott; on the screen during the sequence, 17 pastel-colored views of TV antennas were viewed, each one with a rapid zoom in (the first three are pictured below); the last four views of the 17 added a backdrop of houses (with antennas) set amongst trees or forests
The First Three 'Title Screens' (without text)
  • the main protagonist: Guy Montag (Oskar Werner), a system-enslaved Fireman, living in an oppressive, totalitarian and futuristic world where books and reading materials were banned and destroyed by groups of black-uniformed, helmeted Firemen with flamethrowers (alluding to the Nazis), and book readers were arrested
  • the striking emergence of a bright red firetruck from the firehouse's bright red entrance, with a wailing siren careening through the drab streets to a fire-burning; Firemen could both slide down and up a pole inside the firehouse (using a reversed-film special-effect trick)
  • throughout the film, close-ups of offending books included: Othello, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass, Vanity Fair, Madame Bovary, Mein Kampf, The Brothers Karamazov, Lolita, No Orchids for Miss Blandish, Justine, Jane Eyre, Rebus, The Catcher in the Rye, Don Juan, The Mystery of Jack the Ripper, Fathers and Sons, The Thief's Journal, A History of Torture, Tom Sawyer, and many more
  • Montag's marriage to soap-opera TV addict and pill-popping, long-haired drug-user Linda (Julie Christie), perpetually sedated; the satirical view of mind-numbing, participatory (or interactive) "The Family" TV shows (viewed on a "wall screen") that she often watched; the show's hosts personally asked questions of viewers and signaled input from audience "cousins" with a beeping red light
"The Family" TV show
Interactivity With the Show's "Cousins" -
Beeping Red Light
Society's "Newspaper"
  • the clever image of the society's "newspaper" composed of wordless comic strips
  • the shocking scene of an elderly "Book Lady" (Bee Duffell) defending her decision to stand by her books: ("These books were alive; they spoke to me!"); she lit a match and set everything ablaze around her when she refused to have her books burned - she stood in the middle of the pyre and turned in circles as she was martyred by fire (with a beatific smile on her face)
  • the dual role of Julie Christie, also as short-haired Clarisse - Montag's 20 year-old neighboring schoolteacher who was also an underground revolutionary, one of the "Book People" in favor of preserving books; upon first meeting her, Montag described the meaning of his tag: "Fahrenheit 451" -- "Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which book paper catches fire and starts to burn"; he also added his reason to work: "Well, it's a job just like any other. Good work with lots of variety. Monday, we burn Miller; Tuesday, Tolstoy; Wednesday, Walt Whitman; Friday, Faulkner; and Saturday and Sunday, Schopenhauer and Sartre. We burn them to ashes and then burn the ashes. That's our official motto"
  • with Clarisse's encouragement, the self-doubting, discontented and curious Montag decided to read some of the illegal books he was burning, beginning with his confiscated copy of Dickens' David Copperfield
  • the so-called "Reading Scene" in Montag's living room, when he called Linda and her friends zombies: "You're nothing but zombies, all of you! Just like those husbands of yours you don't even know anymore. You're not living! You're just killing time!"; he forced them to listen as he read an excerpt from a book outloud; before he began, one housewife complained: "Oh, you mustn't. It's against the law"; during the reading, Doris (Ann Bell) began crying, while another rebuked Montag for reading from a filthy and sick book: "I knew that's what would happen. It's what I've always said. Life isn't like novels, Novels and Tears, Novels and Suicide, Novels are Sick! That was sheer cruelty, Montag. You're a cruel man"; another added: "All those words, idiotic words. Evil words that hurt people. Isn't there enough trouble as it is? Why disturb people with that sort of filth?"; as the women exited the home, Doris told Linda how she had recalled repressed feelings: "I can't bear to know those feelings. I'd forgotten all about those things"; Linda was more concerned about losing her friends: "They won't come back. I'll be all alone. I won't be popular anymore. They won't use me in 'The Family' anymore. And you made Doris cry!"
  • the existence of a colony of exiled revolutionaries ("Book People") living like a primitive tribe in the forest - each one memorizing a different chosen classic work of literature to preserve it, for example: "I am Plato's Republic. I recite myself for you whenever you like"
  • the sequence of Montag asking to quit his job, but Captain Beatty (Cyril Cusack) forced him to complete one last job - Montag exclaimed as they pulled up to a house: ("This is my house!"); the job was to incinerate books in his own house; in rebellion, Montag turned the flamethrower on his own home, and then on his colleagues and the Captain - and thus became a fugitive
  • the crude and disorienting special-effect of four firemen flying as they searched for Montag - inserted artificially in front of the landscape
  • the moving ending, when the rebels (including new convert Montag who was memorizing Poe's Tales of Mystery & Imagination, and Clarisse) wandered around in the snowy countryside outside of town, each one simultaneously reciting the memorized words of a cherished book - their voices overlapping

Red Fire Truck in Firehouse

Fireman Guy Montag (Oskar Werner)

Martyrdom of "Book Lady"

Fireman with Wife Linda (Julie Christie)

The "Reading Scene"

Montag's Torching of His Own Home Before Becoming Fugitive

Four Firemen Flying During Search for Montag

Colony of Exiled "Book People"


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