Greatest Film Scenes
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Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984, UK)

In director Michael Radford's dystopic sci-fi horror film - a grim adaptation of George Orwell's classic novel about Thought Police in a post-apocalyptic London (known as Airstrip One) ruled by the repressive totalitarian state of Oceania:

  • the opening credits sequence with the prologue title card: "WHO CONTROLS THE PAST CONTROLS THE FUTURE. WHO CONTROLS THE PRESENT CONTROLS THE PAST"
  • the opening public rally scene in the year 1984 at Victory Square for the employees of the Ministries - the playing of governmental propaganda films (featuring Oceania's beloved Stalin-esque leader Big Brother - "played" by Bob Flag)
  • the main character: oppressed, low-ranking, 39 year-old middle-class drone-civil servant Winston Smith (John Hurt), who worked at the Ministry of Truth (ironically-titled); his job was to alter and rewrite the past and turn 'vaporized' people into non-existent "unpersons" by erasing the person's name in old newspapers and official records
  • after purchasing an old-fashioned diary with blank pages, Smith began to secretly write down his thoughts (a thought-crime); he narrated: "April the 4th, 1984. To the past, or to the future. To an age when thought is free. From the Age of Big Brother, from the Age of the Thought Police, from a dead man... greetings"
  • Winston's nightmarish memory or recollection (in his secret journal) of a past visitation with a Whore (Shirley Stelfox) in the off-limits proletarian areas - her seemingly youthful beauty masked a middle-aged, homely, bruised and repulsive woman: "If there is hope, it lies in the proles. If they could become conscious of their own strength, there would be no need to conspire. History does not matter to them. It was three years ago on a dark evening. Easy to slip the patrols, and I'd gone into the proletarian areas. There was no one else on the street, and no tele-screens. She said: 'Two dollars,' so I went with her. She had a young face, painted very thick. It was really the paint that appealed to me: the whiteness of it like a mask, and the bright red lips. (She hiked up her skirt) There were no preliminaries. Standing there with the scent of dead insects and cheap perfume, I went ahead and did it just the same"
Visitation with a Whore
  • Winston's oft-repeated dream of a green pasture with isolated trees on the horizon that was turned into a reality during a rendezvous with the rebellious, free-spirited and sensual Julia (Suzanna Hamilton), who worked in the Ministry of Truth's Fiction Department; as they stood together and looked out on the pasture, he told her: "Look. It's a dream. I want you"; she encouraged them to retreat farther into the forest for safety's sake: ("Not here, come back to the woods, it's safer"); before having sex, she admitted that she had previously had sex with "hundreds" of party members; he told her: "I hate purity, I hate goodness. I don't want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt" - she agreed: "Well, I ought to suit you, then. I'm corrupt to the core...I adore it"; she stripped down for him for an illicit sexual tryst at the beginning of their idyllic love affair
Julia and Winston Falling in Love in the Countryside
  • the sight of Julia emphatically and fervently screaming during the Two Minutes Hate in a rally, yelling out "Traitor!" at the large image on the screen of the Party's enemies
  • middle-class drone Winston and Julia's continuance of an illicit sexual-romantic liaison in a rented room above a pawn shop in the proletarian area, where they lived together and acquired contraband food ("proper white bread and jam, a real tin of milk...real coffee") and clothing sold on the black market; she surprised him by wearing lipstick and a pretty dress when she asked "Do you like me?" - and they embraced
  • the couple's apprehension - both were naked when they were found out (or betrayed by Mr. Charrington (Cyril Cusack), the owner of the pawn shop and a member of the Thought Police); the two were separated at the Ministry, and forced to be rehabilitated and to repudiate their sexual relationship; both were detained, questioned, and tortured
  • during Winston's detainment, he experienced severe brain-washing administered systematically by suave, high-ranking Inner Party member O'Brien (Richard Burton in his last film role); he was told: "There is no loyalty except loyalty to the Party. There is no love except love of Big Brother. All competing pleasures, we will destroy. If you want a vision of the future, Winston, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- forever...If you're a man, you're the last man. Your kind is extinct. We are the inheritors. Do you understand that you're alone? You're outside history. You unexist...Look at you, you're rotting away. That is the last man. If you're human, that is humanity. It won't last forever. You can escape from it whenever you choose. Everything depends on you...don't give up hope. Everyone is cured sooner or later. And in the end we shall shoot you"
  • Winston was warned about Room 101 - with excruciating personalized torture as the last stage of punishment by the totalitarian government: "The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world. It goes beyond fear of pain or death. It is unendurable and it varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive or castration. Or many other things. In your case, it is rats"; Winston was subjected to a cage filled with wild rats that would tear into his face, in order to break down and "cure" his insanity, have him disavow his love for Julia, and to force him to express loyalty and affection towards the Party and its leader Big Brother
Rat-Cage Torture
  • in the bleak ending, the rehabilitated Winston was playing chess with himself in the Chestnut Tree Cafe; he was briefly approached by an equally-changed Julia - both acted unromantically and passively to each other:
    - Julia: "I told them all about you. I'm only thankful they got me before it was too late."
    - Winston: "Yes, I told them about you, too. ThoughtCrime. SexCrime, all your treachery."
    - Julia: "I have a meeting to go to. We must meet again."
    - Winston: "Yes. We must meet again."
  • after she departed, a large telescreen behind him played a broadcast of himself admitting his numerous crimes: ("I accuse myself of the following crimes. I have seduced Party members of both sexes. I've been to the proletarian areas. I deliberately contracted syphilis in order to spread the disease to my wife and other Party members. Together with other agents, I have counterfeited banknotes, wrecked industrial machinery, polluted the water supply, and guided Eurasian rocket bombs to targets on Airstrip One by means of coded radio signals. I stand here, a victim of the influence of Emmanuel Goldstein, guilty on all counts. I'm glad I was caught. I was mentally deranged. Now I am cured. I ask only for you to accept my love of our leader. I ask only to be shot while my mind is still clean") - after hearing news of the "utter rout of the Eurasian army" on the African front, Winston turned to the image of Big Brother on the screen and whispered faintly (did he actually mouth the words or were they off-screen?) - the film's final words: "I love you"

Winston Smith (John Hurt)

Big Brother

Winston's Diary

Julia Screaming During Two Minutes of Hate

Julia: "Do you like me?"

Winston Apprehended With Julia

Torture by O'Brien: "You unexist...You're rotting away"

A Very Passive Julia Entered Cafe Where Winston Was Playing Chess with Himself

Listening to His Own Confession

Bleak Ending: "I Love You"


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