Less than a week after Donald Trump’s inauguration, “1984” sold out on Amazon. It was a little late; it would have been nice had people read George Orwell's dystopian classic before November. Still, things have chilled out a little since then, even as giant chunks of the book have seemed eerily, nightmarishly prophetic in the age of “alternative facts,” Two-Minutes of Hate sessions for Hillary and the threat of constant, perpetual war with the Middle East, China and — what the hell? — Australia, too.
If you’ve been forgetting that our president very well might turn America into a rights-suspending, spirit-crushing, freedom-eliminating authoritarian state, then you’re in luck. “1984,” the movie adaptation of Orwell’s novel that was filmed in 1984 (and shot on the same dates laid out in the book, amazingly), is screening in theaters across the country tonight.
Coated in grime, despair and (in its original theatrical cut) a sort-of-out-of-place score by the Eurythmics, it stars John Hurt, who passed away this Jan. 25 (around the time the book was selling out, as it were). He’s Winston Smith, “1984”’s exhausted, hollowed-out, hopeless protagonist, who tries to defy Big Brother by falling in love and becoming a furtive rebel — only to wind up in the Ministry of Love with a freaky rat cage strapped to his face.
You can check here to see if your city is one that’s getting a “1984” screening. (New York City boasts seven alone, while Philadelphia and Boston score one each.) Then you can huddle up with the frightened masses and watch a peerlessly sad film that captures the bleak life in a world stripped off freedom, hope or anything beyond serving an insidious state that thrives on power and fear. You can even steel yourself for the forthcoming stage version of “1984” due for Broadway, and wonder how no one’s ever made a film of another old-timey, Trump-predicting bestseller, Sinclair Lewis’ “It Can’t Happen Here,” which is still number one in Amazon’s “Classics” section.
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