Let’s be honest, the real stars of the upcoming “Fahrenheit 451” adaptation will be the books.
As awesome as Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon are, books are the real focus in the recent HBO film in many scenes, whether they’re spilling down onto the floor, stacked in towers, hidden in an air vent or even tossed into piles and set on fire. Based on the novel by Ray Bradbury (yes, a book about books), the story centers on the reformation and revelations of a man, Guy Montag, who used to destroy books for a living.
If you still shudder at the thought of having to see another book after high school literature class, this movie will not be for you.
It’s a common internet action to find and catalogue all the books in a television show or movie: Buzzfeed lists out all 339 books in Gilmore Girls and Goodreads features all the books found in ‘Elementary,’ the Sherlock Holmes TV series.
Using extremely poor eyesight, a lot of screenshots on my pixelated iPad and about 50 replays at 720p of the new trailer posted on YouTube, I’ve tried to start a running list of the books in “Fahrenheit 451.”
The key word is “start” here, because most books in the scenes don’t have titles or covers, or are obscured. But for one movie, there is a stunning amount of literature crammed into a 2:11 minute trailer. If I misidentify a book wrongly, blame it on my inability to squint properly. Below I time out any glimpses of book covers that I could find in the trailer.
0:06 - Montag holds up two unidentifiable books to a room full of schoolchildren.
0:07 - A Firefighter steps on a pile of books, including Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch.”
0:11 - A match falls on a pile of books, including “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes and possibly “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu.
Another pile of books is burning, including “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald,
“The Odyssey” by Homer and a copy of the “Guinness Book of World Records.”
0:15 - Firefighters enter a home to find a study full of books — so many books you can’t tell them apart as the camera pans over the room.
It’s a “Beauty and the Beast” never-seen-other-humans-in-15-years level of books, stacked on the table, the floor, the desk, the tables. Are we all drooling now or is it just me?
0:17 - Camera closes in on a huge pile of books, including “The Sound and the Fury” – William Faulkner.
It has taken me roughly 10 minutes and possibly ruined my eyes forever, but I can see what appears to potentially be a copy of “The Lombard Cavalcade” by Virgina Coffman.
0:25 - A stream of books falls toward the camera. Do we really need water if we can have waterfalls of books instead?
0:40 - Montag stares, entranced, at a screen that appears to be uploading copies of digital books, including “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, a copy of “National Geographic” and a copy of “Newsweek.” There’s also another copy of “National Geographic” and the short story “Where I’m Calling From” by Raymond Carver, and book “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy
0:42 - A pile of books is again burning and “Don Quixote” makes another appearance. Also in the pile of books is “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley and possibly Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.”
0:53 - Montag is given a copy of “The Compete Stories” of Franz Kafka
0:57 - Montag is reading Kafka, as viewers can see the words “possible for someone to be guilty?” We’re,” which is a fragment of a line from “The Trial.”
1:10 - Montag removes the air vent cover from his wall, which, in the movie, hides a novel he’s rescued from one of his book burnings.
1:11 - The next scene shows Montag opening a book, where page 1, chapter 1, is labeled “Underground.” Viewers can also see the words “I am a wicked man. An unattractive,” which appears to be the first line of the translated version of “Notes from the Underground” written by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
1:26 - Montag stands in front of a giant library. There are too many books in sight to name at this point and I become jealous.
1:43 - Montag is folding a piece of paper that says “To live is to suffer but to survive is to find meaning in one’s suffering,” which comes from Friedrich Nietzche, whose philosophical texts are very popular.
Now, let’s identify the meaning behind the books that Montag is reading, shall we?
Kafka’s “The Trial,” according to its summary on Goodreads, is about a bank officer who is accused of a misdeed but doesn’t know what he’s accused of.
Montag, in “Fahrenheit 451,” is accused of harboring books, becoming the type of person he has been trained all his life to despise.
“Notes from the Underground,” according to Amazon, is about a man, a former official, who joins an underground resistance.
As Montag, once he realizes the power of books, sacrifices his former identity in order to run from society and join an underground resistance where people honor the books by remembering them, rather than shunning them.
As with the Nietzche quote, Montag suffers when he finds the book and suffers when he decides to keep it and read it and suffers when he starts to wake up to how wrong his society is. But he finds meaning in the book when it helps him gain clarity about how shallow everyone else’s lives are, as well as when he joins the underground resistance and his suffering has given him a purpose: remembering and passing along the words that he reads.
It’s taken me roughly an hour and a half to just identify these books. I can only imagine how many libraries’ worth of books there must be in the full-length movie.