There will be no such disclaimer at the end of my new film, because we burned a lot of books.We designed powerful, kerosene-spitting flamethrowers and torched books — en masse. I was taught at a very young age to read and respect books.
The protagonist, a fireman named Guy Montag, begins to doubt his actions and turns against his mentor, Captain Beatty. Bradbury’s novel is a classic taught in high schools across America.The firemen are transfixed by the books — but they still have to burn them. The cover art of most books is protected by copyright, and in most cases we were unable to obtain permission to display it — let alone burn it on camera.So the art directors for my film designed countless original book covers that we could burn. There were always more I wanted to burn than we had time to film.Bradbury believed that we wanted the world to become this way. That we wanted entertainment to replace reading and thinking.That we voted for political and economic systems to keep us happy rather than thoughtfully informed.As tech companies consolidate power, imagine how easy it could be to rewrite Benjamin Franklin’s Wiki entry to match what the firemen in Bradbury’s novel learn about the history of the fire department: “Established, 1790, to burn English-influenced books in the Colonies.First Fireman: Benjamin Franklin.” In his way, Bradbury predicted the rise of “alternative facts” and an era of “post-truth.”As the virtual world becomes more dominant, owning books becomes an act of rebellion.When I set out to adapt the novel early in 2016, I was faced with a big question: Do people still care about physical books? But the more I thought about it, the more relevant the novel seemed.For Bradbury, books were repositories of knowledge and ideas.Hegel, Plato and Grace Lee Boggs’s philosophy were set on fire.The firemen discriminate against no one: Texts in Chinese, Hindi, Persian and Spanish all burned.