Distributed by Films for the Humanities and Sciences, P.O. Box 2053 Princeton, NJ 08543-2053; 800-257-5126
Produced by Cronkite Ward Company for TLC
VHS, color, 51 min.
High School - Adult
Reviewed by Ramona Islam, DiMenna-Nyselius Library, Fairfield University
First published in 1949, George Orwell's novel, 1984, has been made into a movie three times. The last film, starring John Hurt, was released to theaters in 1984. Although the year 1984 has come and gone, Orwell's foreboding vision continues to stir young minds. Much has been written about 1984; in addition to motion picture adaptations, the novel has inspired documentaries, such as the video that is the subject of this review. Most of the videos on the market either offer a literary analysis of the novel or focus on the number of Orwell's predictions that have come to pass. This particular production stands out, because it offers both, drawing upon the novel, film interpretations, and expert commentary.
The video begins with a plot summary depicted through dramatizations of the text and clips from Rosenblum's 1984. Biographical narration follows, accompanied by photographs of Orwell as a child and his isolated home of later years. Using old, wartime footage, the documentary examines Orwell's political struggles, including his efforts on behalf of the leftists during the Spanish Civil War, which ultimately led to his disdain for Stalin. Novelist Margaret Drabble and Orwell biographer Bernard Crick connect Orwell's lived experiences and observations during the World War II era with themes in 1984: betrayal, loss of privacy, and poor health, among others.
Dramatizations from the novel are continually interwoven with elucidating commentary. The viewer is taken from a scene of Winston Smith exercising in front of the two-way telescreen to a scene of modern day shoppers as seen by an overhead surveillance camera. Winston's torture at the hands of Big Brother is discussed in the context of political torture that continues today, much more frequently than most would like to believe, according to Dr. Robert Kirschner, a human rights educator. Social psychologist Philip Zimbardo, famous for his Stanford prison study gone awry, shares his observations of human nature, and technologists like Ray Kurzweil and Kevin Warwick discuss the possibilities for machine intelligence in the future.
George Orwell's 1984 is a useful tool for exploring Orwell's famous novel in the context of modern times, without ignoring many important biographical and historical details. Recommended for students of English literature at the high school and undergraduate level.