“1984” George Orwell’s novel about a dystopian society living in a totalitarian system was adopted into a film directed by Robert Radford starring John Hurt, Suzanna Hamilton, and the late Richard Burton.
The movie is set in Oceania in 1984, where Winston Smith (John Hurt) lives in London, as known as the capitol of Airstrip One. Day to day he lives a monotonous existence working as an office administrator at the Ministry of Truth, rewriting and changing the information in newspaper articles about history under the Party’s dictation and under the supreme rule of the Thought Police and Big Brother.
Winston is an unhappy man; he is rather phlegmatic and suffers from nightmares due to his childhood. When he is not working for the Ministry of Truth, he keeps a diary where he writes his private thoughts about life and this action is prohibited from the Thought Police. Any independent thoughts that go against the Party’s philosophy that, “War is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength,” are considered thought crime.
Winston’s life is then, dramatically, changed, when an Outer Party worker named, Julia (Suzanna Hamilton) coerces him to have a sexual encounter in a secluded area in the country side. The two continue to meet regularly in a rented room that Winston pays for above a pawn shop, and they continue their secret affair for a few months.
One evening, their affair, abruptly, ends when Winston and Julia are together in the rented room and they find out that the Thought Police has been watching them the whole time through a telescreen (a television that operates as a security camera) hidden by a picture on the wall. The man, who owned the pawn shop and was somewhat of a trusted individual for Winston, was, in fact, a secret agent working for the Thought Police and he was working with the Thought Police to have Winston and Julia arrested.
The Thought Police surround them, they raid the room and the two are arrested and taken away to be detained and punished.
Winston is then imprisoned in the Ministry of Love where he is, brutally, tortured with electric shocks and brainwashed by O’Brien (Richard Burton), a member of the Inner Party. During the torturing, O’Brien schools Winston about the principles of double thinking – the mentality of having two contradictory thoughts in the mind simultaneously, and that all self-truths must be destroyed. Winston’s final rehabilitation occurs in Room 101 where he is tortured by rats and proclaims that he is, indeed, cured.
Why is “1984” the most depressing movie ever made?
Firstly, the scenery in “1984” is depicted after a war whereby the society is weak and under the control of a corrupt government, the Thought Police and Big Brother. Everything is grey and demure, and all the people are dressed in a homogenous blue jumper, with the only difference that women tie a red ribbon around their waists.
It is thought that the red ribbon signifies the color of communism, which is closely related to totalitarianism.
Second, the notion that Big Brother is always watching is evident in the movie, where people cannot act freely and have independent thinking. This is depressing because as we have seen throughout history, and even today in countries such as North Korea and Cuba where communism is the regime, people who live in a totalitarian society are controlled and prohibited from freedom of speech and independent thinking. Basically, people in “1984” were not able to voice their own opinions and do what they wanted to do, this goes against humanity.
All human behavior were watched by the telescreens and secret agents who seemed to be a friend, were actually, working for the Party. It is depressing to know that you cannot trust anyone and that everyone you encounter could be an enemy.
Thirdly, “1984” is very depressing due to its disturbing scenes of torture and brain washing. When Winston was tortured with electric shocks from O’Brien, he said that Winston was mentally deranged. Winston’s behavior of keeping a diary and having an affair with Julia were considered to be acts of ‘free-thinking’ and, thus, he was, severely, tortured and brainwashed to believe that he betrayed the Party and Big Brother.
More over, what is depressing about “1984’s” message that, “War is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength,” is that the people were brainwashed to believe it.
It was propagated through the telescreens of thought criminals, including Winston, that their ‘free-thinking’ was wrong and that the war between Oceania and Eurasia was a celebration of ‘freedom.’
Overall, “1984” is depressing because it shows a society where the government instills fear and torture on the people and we see how brainwashing affects human beings. “1984” is an example of when people are weak and powerless, they begin to doubt the truth and when they are brainwashed, they believe the corrupted government’s lies. Sadly, what is even more depressing that the themes in “1984” still exists today. We still live in a world where people’s ignorance is celebrated and the capacity for the human mind is limited when the government is corrupted and human beings feel helpless.