'Fahrenheit 451' Book Vs. Movie: How Different is HBO's Adaption From Ray Bradbury’s Original Novel

Janice Williams

HBO will premiere it’s highly anticipated adaptation of Ray Bradbury's 1953 book, Fahrenheit 451 Saturday. The film, which sees Michael B. Jordan as Bradbury’s protagonist, Fireman Guy Montag, is set in a dystopian city where books are illegal. Firemen, like Montag, spend their days actually starting fires instead of putting them out.

More than book burning, the HBO’s movie, co-written and directed by Ramin Bahrani, depicts a world where free thought and independent thinking are discouraged. In the book, television is the authoritarian government’s main way to keep civilians distracted. In the new HBO film though, it’s the power of the internet and social media that keeps society trapped. 

“I was working with this script back in January 2016, and a lot of it had to do with the internet and this supercomputer in your hand that you’re constantly recording on,” Bahrani told Newsweek at the Fahrenheit 451 premiere recently. “If I came into your home and burned all your books, you could just download them. We rely on this for all of our information even if it's not real. We want to be happy all the time. We want to be distracted all the time. Bradbury warned us about that.”

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'Fahrenheit 451' Movie Vs. Book

Michael Shannon and Michael B. Jordan in HBO's adaptation of "Fahrenheit 451," premiering on May 19, 2018. Michael Gibson/HBO

The biggest differences between the new film and the book appear to be with characters. For starters, Montag’s lazy and mundane-brained wife Mildred is nowhere to be found in the movie. And Clarisse, who is depicted as a curious teen in the book, is a grown up (played by Sofia Boutella) eel, or illegal citizen. Similar to the book, it’s Clarisse who sparks Montag’s initial interest in books. However, it’s Clarisse, Montag’s love interest, who inspires him to repopulate society’s thirst for knowledge.

Then there's the OMNIS, a strange DNA strand that will supposedly cure mankind's deflated attention spans and seemingly open their eyes to the information that the government has been holding back from them. Montag is the one who is given the task of making sure the OMNIS gets to where it needs to go so that it can be duplicated and multiplied.

Although the movie isn’t nearly as futuristic as the society Bradbury imagined back in the 1950s—a TV in an individual home was still considered a luxury in those days—Fahrenheit 451’s plot is essentially the same and challenges the ideas of censorship and thought limitations. “I set mine in an alternate tomorrow. It seems like we’re there already, so I just changed a few things,” Bahrani said. “But I wanted it to feel like this is right around the corner or even starting to happen right now.”

This article was first written by Newsweek

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