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2002 Summer
Fahrenheit 451 Revisited
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Who owns the music?
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Summer 2002
Fahrenheit 451 Revisited

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All of this I didn't know when I wrote the novel. I wish I had heard Beatty speak to me at that time. I also discovered that Beatty had a secret cache of books. He took Montag, the Fireman protagonist of the novel, home and revealed a fantastic library. Montag was aghast and cried, "But you're the chief fireman! How can you keep these books?" To which Beatty responded, "It's not having the books that counts, Montag, it's reading them. I never touch them. They're like my harem. I keep them around me and never once do I ever crack the covers or read one line."

Later, in October 1966, François Truffaut made a film of Fahrenheit 451. I have a theory about film: If you have a very good film with a bad ending, then you have a bad film. If you have a mediocre film or a good film with a brilliant ending, then you have an almost brilliant film.

That's the story of the film Fahrenheit 451. The ending, with the book-people wandering in the wilderness, speaking the lines from the books they have memorized as the snow falls all about them and the fabulous Bernard Herrmann score plays, brings you to tears.

Driving back from a preview with Fritz Lang, the famed German director, he kept shouting, "God dammit to hell! I hate those book-people wandering in the forest, speaking their favorite book!"

"Fritz," I said, "it's only a metaphor. It's not supposed to be real. It's a metaphor."

"God dammit," said Fritz, "I hate that ending with the book-people and the snow falling and the Herrmann music."

Thank God I didn't listen to Fritz. The film today stands by itself, without his God dammits.


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