This sharp adaptation of Orwell’s novel 1984 by director Michael Radford and Jonathan Gelns wisely avoids the temptation to decorate the story with modish science fiction trimmings and instead dates the drama back to the drab and dreary London of the late 1940s. As Time Out espied; “Radford sensibly aligns himself with Anthony Burgess’ suggestion that the film only makes sense as 1948, with its food rationing, its housing shortages, bad cigarettes and Churchillian slogans”.
The key casting is highly commendable. John Hurt, whose talent for bringing tortured (usually self-tortured) characters to life, was a perfect choice for the doomed rebel Winston Smith whose encounter with the totalitarian state can only ultimately lead to tragedy. And Richard Burton, in his last appearance on screen, is equally powerful and compelling as Hurt’s inquisitor-torturer, despite his relatively brief appearnce in the film. “He bestrides the movie like Big Brother himself”, said The Mail on Sunday .
Radford brilliantly evokes the Big Brother-dominated Oceania: a place of bomb sites, constant drizzle and slums dominated by huge and omnipresent TV screens exhorting hapless citizens, reporting military triumphs and celebrating endless statistics of armament and terrifyingly interfacing with Hurt. “The bleak architecture of the period and urban landscape devastated by World War II bombing raids are used to telling effect,” said Variety , “with top-notch set-design and location dressing by Allan Cameron”.
UK / 1984
Director: Michael Radford
Writers: Michael Radford, Jonathan Gelns, from the novel by George Orwell
Cast: John Hurt, Richard Burton, Suzanna Hamilton, Cyril Cusack, Gregor Fisher, James Walker