FOUR EPISODES FROM NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR
Winner of the New Focus Award, The Louis B. Meyer Prize and the Eastman Cinematography Award, Marshall Peterson's thirty-minute short, Four Episodes from 1984, based on the classic dystopian novel by George Orwell, was recently completely remastered and released on Blu-Ray in 1080p HD for select audiences.
winston smith JOHN NOWAK
o'brien ALAN LEACH
julia JAYNE BENTZEN
parsons JERRY WINSETT
skull faced man MALCOLM COHEN
syme RON KEITH
syme's wife GRETCHEN HENRY
wilson MALCOLM ZEMAN
technician WILLIAM WEGERT
thought police RICHARD LANE
written and directed by MARSHALL PETERSON
based on the novel by GEORGE ORWELL
director of photography FRANK PRINZI
editor MARSHALL PETERSON
assistant director LI-SHIN YU
production manager NIKOLA COLTON
production designer BERNICE MAST
sound recordists ROBERT CLEM
first assistant camera YUET-FUNG HO
second assistant camera STEVE AMATEAU
gaffer DAVID GREENWALD
key grip/dolly grip PAUL ZILLER
lighting grips ALAN FISCHER
fogmaster KAM-CHEUNG CHAN
production assistants MARYANN BRANDON
makeup artist JULIANA CRISS
makeup assistant MELINDA RIVERA
special makeup effects EDWARD EMERSON FRENCH
sound editor (1983) DAVID GELFAND
sound mixer (1983) PETER WAGGONER, SOUND ONE
color and prints DUART LABORATORIES
restoration supervisor MARSHALL PETERSON
hd transfer CINEFILM
sound editor/mixer TODD WATSON
visual effects ERIC LEASE
blu ray mastering WAVEGUIDE STUDIOS
SYNOPSIS (spoiler alert!)
"Four Episodes From 1984" contains a eight scenes from a screenplay based on George Orwell’s "Nineteen Eighty-four", divided into four sections, or episodes, defined by their locations.
The film begins almost halfway through the novel, when Winston and Julia have already become lovers and have found a seemingly safe place for their trysts, hidden from the prying eyes of the government.
The first episode, "Syme's Arrest", begins with Syme and his wife asleep on twin beds, being watched by a video camera, visibly mounted on the wall above the door. They are awakened by the sound of approaching helicopters. The door to their room opens and three policemen enter the room and surround the Syme's bed. He protests that "I am a loyal member of the party", but one of the policemen hits him with a billy club, then all three drag him out of the room. Syme's wife stays frozen in her bed as they exit and we hear the helicopter take off and disappear into the distance. From the point of view of the video camera, she lies back down on her side as if to go back to sleep. We cut to a close-up of her as she stares, wide-eyed, at nothing.
The second episode, "The Ministry of Truth", introduces us to Winston Smith, an Outer Party member (identified by his grey overalls) and O'Brien, a member of the Inner Party (black overalls). O'Brien stops Smith in the hallway and invites him to walk with him. O'Brien compliments Smith on his mastery of Newspeak, the "official" language of Oceania. Smith replies that he is an amateur, and has had nothing to do with the language's construction. O'Brien praises Smith's Newspeak writing, and backs up his statement by mentioning an acquaintance of Smith's who "is certainly an expert. His name slips my mind at the moment." This is an oblique reference to Syme, who was arrested the previous night by the Thought Police. Merely mentioning such an "un-person" is a crime, so O'Brien is sharing a potentially dangerous confidence. O'Brien asks if Smith has looked at the Tenth Edition of the Newspeak Dictionary, then “remembers” that it hasn't been released generally, "but a few advance copies have been circulated. Would it interest you to look at it?" "Very much," Smith replies. O'Brien offers to send a messenger, but "I usually forget that sort of thing. Why don't you come over to my flat sometime when it suits you? I'll give you the address." Standing directly under one of the ubiquitous cameras, O'Brien writes down his address and hands it to Winston. He then looks up at the camera, a buzzer sounds and a heavy iron gate opens, allowing O'Brien entrance into some inner sanctum. He tells Winston that he's usually at home in the evenings, and the gate closes between them.
The third episode, "The Room Over Charrington's Shop", takes place in an upstairs room over a curio shop in the prole sector. Winston looks out at the alley behind the building as he waits for his lover, Julia (also an outer party member). Julia enters, removes her red Anti-Sex League armband, takes off the bandana over her head and literally lets her hair down. She walks over to Winston and also looks out the window, as if to see what he's looking at. Winston, still looking out the window, tells her of Syme's disappearance. She says that it was bound to happen, "It was written all over his face." "What's written all over our faces?" Winston muses. They talk about the danger of their clandestine relationship, the inevitability of their capture and torture by the Thought Police. "The only thing that matters is that we don't betray one another," Winston says. Julia says that they're bound to confess under torture. Winston says that confession isn't betrayal. "If they could make me stop loving you, that would be the real betrayal." Julia insists that won't happen, "They can watch you and listen to you, but they can never tell what you're feeling inside." Winston agrees, saying that as long as they stay human, then they've won in the end. They kiss as we hear the ominous sound of approaching helicopters over a slow fade to black.
The film skips over Winston's and Julia's meeting with O'Brien, their decision to join The Brotherhood and their arrest and initial processing.
The fourth episode, "The Ministry of Love", contains five scenes in four locations. The first of these, called "Thoughtcrime" in the Blu-ray menu, finds Winston alone in a dark, dungeon-like cell. After a moment, the doors open and two guards drag in Parsons, Winston's neighbor and an avid party member - the last person one would expect to be arrested. Winston asks what they've arrested him for, and Parsons replies, "Thoughtcrime." Winston asks whether he's guilty, and Parsons responds, "Of course I'm guilty! You don't think they'd arrest and innocent man, do you?" Parsons launches into an explanation, saying that he was taking in his sleep, saying "Down with Big Brother" over and over again, and his seven-year-old daughter reported it to the patrols. "At least it shows I brought her up in the right spirit," he concludes. Just then, the doors open and the guards escort two more prisoners into the cell: a blond, inconspicuous man (Wilson) and an emaciated-looking man who has clearly been imprisoned for some time (the Skull-Faced Man). When the guards leave, Wilson pulls a bread crust out of his pocket and tries to give it to the Skull-Faced Man, who shies away. The cell door opens, two guards charge in and Wilson is knocked unconscious with a single blow from one of the guards. The two guards then stand in front of the Skull-faced Man and one of them says, "Room 101." The skull-faced Man pleads with them and tries to get away, but they beat and kick him nearly senseless, and drag him, still pleading, out of the cell. Everyone else in the cell stays completely still, in shock and in fear of similar treatment.
The next scene, "Nightmare", has Winston standing in a fog-filled space, his hands chained to the floor. Surrounded by strange sounds, he tries to get his bearings and to pull the chain out of the ground. Then he notices something on the ground near his feet. He reaches through the thick fog to pick it up, and it's revealed to be Julia's dismembered arm, torn from her body just below the elbow. This grisly image cuts directly to...
"Holding Cell". Winston sits on a white bench in a room with white walls, floor and ceiling. He stares at the floor until he's startled by the sound of approaching footsteps. The door opens and O'Brien is ushered in by two guards. Winston stands up, in shock. "They got you too!" he says. O'Brien smiles. "They got me years ago, Winston." The guards step forward and beat Winston with their clubs as O'Brien and the video cameras watch impassively. We see the action reflected in one of the big brother camera lenses and fade to the next scene,
"How Many Fingers", the first half of the long interrogation scene that ends the film. Winston is tied down to a table in what looks like an operating room built in the 1950s or '60s. Over the drone of an electric motor, O'Brien demonstrates a device that allows him to inflict pain upon Winston, whenever he wishes and to whatever degree he chooses. After Winston recovers, O'Brien explains that Winston has been arrested because he is mentally deranged, and that O'Brien, the representative of The Party, will cure him. He begins by explaining to Winston that The Party controls all records and memories, therefore they control history. Winston replies, "How can you control memories? It's involuntary. You have not controlled mine." O'Brien says "On the contrary, Winston, YOU have not controlled it. And that is why you are here." He holds up his hand with four fingers outstretched. "How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?"
"And if the Party says that is not four, but five, how many then?"
O'Brien subjects Winston to intense pain, asking over and over, "How many fingers, Winston?" Winston at first insists on four, then as the pain escalates, changes his answer to "five". O'Brien: "Don't lie to me. You still think there are four. How many fingers, Winston?" Winston answers as he loses consciousness, "Four! Five" Whatever you want - just stop it! Stop it!!"
The final scene, "A Perfect Conversion", begins with Winston, still strapped to the table, being awakened so that the torture can start again. In this second round, the pain becomes to intense that Winston starts to hallucinate, and sees dozens of hands with fingers outstretched. Finally, O'Brien stops the torture and a technician fits Winston with shock treatment pads. O'Brien tells him that it won't hurt this time, and Winston is jolted with 3000 volts. O'Brien then asks the dazed Winston several questions, which he is unable to answer. O'Brien supplies answers to which Winston groggily agrees. Finally, O'Brien holds up his hand and says "I'm holding up five fingers. Can you see five fingers?" Winston looks, and from his point of view we do indeed see that O'Brien has somehow grown an extra finger. Winston, his head starting to clear, looks at the smiling O'Brien, then back to his hand. We see four fingers.
"At least you see that it IS possible," O'Brien says. The technician gives Winston an injection. O'Brien tells Winston that he'll go to sleep in a few minutes, and magnanimously offers Winston the chance to ask some questions of his own, without fear of pain or shock. Winston asks what they did with Julia. "She betrayed you completely. It was a perfect conversion."
"You tortured her."
Winston, as he drifts off, asks "What is in Room 101?"
O'Brien, as he leaves the room and turns off the lights, replies, "You know what's in Room 101. Everyone knows what's in Room 101."