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John Hurt is Smith, a hapless cog in the NewSpeak Ministry. Each day, he rewrites history, depending on the "truth" of the moment.

This unremittingly gray world, where no one smiles, where the drone of propaganda bleats on from countless state vidScreens, this fascist nightmare was dreamt up by George Orwell in 1934. At home, Smith commits "thought crime." Worse, he has taken action. He has bought a notebook in which he writes his own, private thoughts. There is no room for such decadent thinking in the world of Big Brother.

The helicopter drifts by the window, starring in. A woman passes Smith a note. It says "I love you". Smith burns the note, dumping it, flash burned, where all the old history goes.

Children wear the uniforms of state informers. Executions, telecast on large projection screens, are the chief spectacle -- the approved entertainment. The woman draws Smith into her conspiracy. Smith doesn't know what the purpose is, who he is joining. He is a blind man, risking his life for the dream of sight.

Smith meets the woman in a wood. They make love.

Back in the city, there is major research underway by the Party to neutralize the orgasm. This will aid in rendering the family obsolete.

There is a silence that runs through this film, an agony of waiting. The noose is around the neck and you're waiting for the trapdoor to drop.

Smith rents an unassigned room. Unspeakable. She comes to the room, bearing black market groceries. He says "I want you". She has him turn around. When she says "look at me" she is wearing a dress, not the usual party drab. "Was there ever a time when this was ordinary?", wonders Smith.

When they meet again, each admonishes the other. They must quit this affair or it will mean the death of them. But, they can't stop. Their love has awakened them.

When they are captured, it's like a bad dream folding in on itself. The man who rented them their room is a member of the thought police. The man (Richard Burton) who gave Smith the seditious text, the underground manifesto- that man is the chief torturer for the Party.

The torture sessions, Winston strapped to the table, electrodes bearing pain. There is an awful intimacy, between tormentor and tormented. Richard Burton's voice caresses his victim, as the difference between seeing four fingers or five becomes moot, non-existent.

The torture ends. The former lovers meet again. Each frankly admits how they betrayed the other. They did not know each other. They each say they were glad they got caught.

And yet... and yet... There's a ghost of a voice in Smith's head as he sits alone in a deserted cafe. The voice says, calling from the past, "I love you". And Yet... he had just been looking at the omnipresent face of BB, Big Brother. After the breaking, who does Smith really love?

(P. Sugarman)


U.S.A. Home Video, Inc, 1984
Directed by Michael Bradford

Here is the TEXT POPUP for 1984:

Who controls the past
controls the future
Who controls the present
controls the past


(As she leaves, he asks her)

"Julia, do you think the resistance is real?

She replies, "No, nothing is real."

It's not so much staying alive, it's staying human that matters.

"If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever..."

This was the final big-screen appearance by Richard Burton.

Eurythmics wrote and performed a soundtrack for this film. Not much of their work was used in the final film. The soundtrack album (which includes the dance hit "Sex Crimes") is excellent. If you haven't heard it, and you like Eurythmics (especially their earlier stuff), you should check it out.

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© 1998 The Computer Lab
Gareth Branwyn -

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