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1983 continues-- film version to Orwell's atmosphere

1984, written and directed by Michael Radford. Starring Susanna Hamilton, Cyril Cusack, John Hurt and Richard Burton. Now playing at Nickelodeon and Orson Welles cinemas.

Though the hype and flurry surrounding the book 1984 has diminished with the arrival of the new year, Orwell's cautionary vision of the future remains with us in cinematic form. 1984 is definitely not to be missed.

It is hard to imagine anyone else but John Hurt perfectly cast as the troubled Winston Smith. The bleak, mechanical reality of everyday life in Oceania is fully reflected on his almost painfully gaunt features. When he shares the screen with Big Brother, the contrast is overwhelming.

Suzanna Hamilton renders an equally remarkable performance as Julia; the young, rebellious Oceaniaite who brings love and a glimpse of hope into Winston Smith's life of resignation. Though her face is almost as drawn and haunted as Winston's for the greater part of the film, she lights up during the love scenes. Her radiance provides a colorful contrast to the otherwise monochromatic atmosphere which engulfs the screen.

Richard Burton, in his last film before an untimely death, plays the part of a member of the Inner Party. His presence is less felt than John Hurt's but nontheless equally admirable. Burton's hulking frame and mellifluous voice make a good choice for O'Brien, the master of doublethink who later betrays Winston and follows on to convert him into a true believer of Big Brother.

Throughtout the devastating torture scenes, O'Brien's face is benevolent and paternal even when Winston's body is stretched beyond the limit of endurable pain.

Unlike many film versions of books, 1984 is true to the Orwellian vision. Every scene, from Winston's comfortless apartment to the crowded dining halls in the Ministry of Truth complete with surveillance screen, reeks of a totalitarian, inhuman society.

Director of photography Roger Deakins keeps the film in muted grayish colors throughtout except for the love scene between Winston and Julia. The photography was so true to the mood of Orwell's 1984 -- so relentlessly depressing -- that it is hard to sit through the movie without wanting to squirm.

The film is so uniformly deadening, so discomforting. Perhaps director Michael Radford intended to dull the audience's senses so they could share the emotionless lives of the citizens of Oceania.

A word of warning to those who have not read 1984: It's assumed that you have. If you haven't, though the plot may seem sketchy, the mood is inescapable.

Lauren Seely->