Monday, February 18, 2013

Are the movie versions of books creating discussion?

At the beginning of the semester we compared and contrasted several ideas and basics of Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World.

Being very interested in the movie industry I was struck by the familiarity of the elements in both titles within many films.  There was a new movie trailer I had recently seen that seemed to capture Brave New World's ideas.  So I decided for this blog post to research some other films that had similar themes.  Come to find out there are a lot that have either been strongly influenced by the two books or have at least subtle association.

Movies based on 1984 focus on a time in which the government has complete control, whether with surveillence or other means - virtually there is no freedom for individuals.  Works that convey this include Brazil, V for Vendetta, 12 Monkeys, and Minority Report.

Some would include movies like Blade Runner and Total Recall in this category as well, but there is less feeling that government is controlling, but rather that dystopia has fallen on society as a whole, instead of being inflicted upon the specific characters.

Another movie that seemed to surround the same topic was the 2002 film, Equilibrium, based on a nation in which people have to take a designer drug to stop emotional feeling and keep everyone's mood even.  War was eliminated by suppressing emotion - and books, art and music are prohibited. 

There are several sites discussing the possibility of a movie adaptation of Brave New World, with interest from director Ridley Scott and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.  News of the film began in 2011, so only time will tell if it will go into production.  In 1998 there was a television movie loosely based on the book, but like most adaptations much of the content and character details deviated from the original story.

I was somewhat surprised to find such extensive lists people had put together online of films documenting ideas from 1984, and far fewer about Brave New World.  Most of the films I discussed above are a bit older though, and newer films do seem to focus more on interpretations of Huxley's thoughts.

Do you think this represents a societal shift?  What kinds of discussion do you think these movies will bring to the forefront for audience members?


  1. Hunger Games came to my mind when I read your post. Though it's been a long time since I've seen the movie, and I've never read the book, I remember the portrayed government having total control over the population through technology. I'd be interested to see if 1984 is a confirmed influence of Hunger Games. Either way, I could see these movies inciting much of the same kinds of conversations we have in class, and they'd perhaps promote a greater awareness of the affects of technology.

  2. Oh my goodness, please please please let Ridley Scott and Leonardo DiCaprio do Brave New World! Brave New World is one of my favorite books, and DiCaprio one of my favorite actors. Plus, the director of Blade Runner taking up such a project would be amazing.

    Now that my fangirling is over, I have to say that I do think the switch from focus on Orwell's ideas to Huxley's represents some kind of societal shift. It seems that people are becoming more aware of the effects of not only media, but their own tendencies toward entertainment, pleasure, and even laziness. Though this is a generalization, I do feel that these things are inherent in most, if not all, of mankind to some extent. It is these attributes that have made today's media what it is: a fragmented, show business oriented, uninformative blur. We are not being preyed on; we have birthed the monster and are feeding it willingly, and people are starting to notice.

    I don't wish to sound so morbid. That these developments are mostly negative is only my personal opinion fueled by years of ingesting dystopian novels and movies. There are positive effects of television, telegraphy, etc. as well, and I recognize that. I am glad, however, that Huxley's world is being more widely regarded now, because I believe it to be just as intelligently formed, and probably more accurate.

  3. Like Jacob I immediately thought of Hunger Games and all the other Dystopian novels that have been turned into movies or will be soon. I think it does represent a societal shift in thinking.

    We saw the video today talking about a potential nuclear war with Russia. I think we are having some of the same sort of discussions now to a much lesser extent and I think that is reflected in the books we read and the shows and movies we watch. I know I'm concerned with issues like genetic engineering, global warming, and the issue of government control. Recent events have brought these sort of ideas to people's attention and I think one way we discuss serious issues is through the media. The problem is that most of the time, I don't think it really changes things very much.

  4. I think that film is a great medium for dystopian stories to convey their messages, and I'm sure there's plenty of healthy public discourse that comes from these movies. However, I think that the majority of the people who watch these movies are just looking for entertainment and probably won't be able to connect the story to real life. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with being entertained, of course.

    I think it would be interesting to study how the general public feel about dystopian stories. People are obviously interested in it if Hollywood can make a profit from it. I personally think dystopia is popular because of how easy it is to connect these stories to today's world.

  5. Dystopian definitely the current fad in American entertainment, replacing Vampires (as far as the books and movies coming out). I think 1984 is definitely a much bigger influence in the films that have been out or are coming out. To me, this is because the world in 1984, as Postman even points out, is not really taking place, whereas Brave New World's world is very much present (though there definitely are some surveillance/privacy concerns present today).

    If Brave New World is coming out, and films like the Hunger Games (which does include a bit of a commentary on entertainment) come out, I would hope that it would represent a greater awareness of where society has gone. However, like Ace, I feel that a lot of people would watch the films and just be entertained, with the ideas kind of flying over their heads.

    I personally enjoy dystopian novels and movies, and definitely like how they, along with some sci-fi, offer timely social commentary.