Few books have the unimpeachable reputation of Ray Bradbury‘s Fahrenheit 451. If you’re a bored, frustrated high-schooler, Bradbury’s counter-culture classic has the sort of transcendent power that is usually only likened to J.D. Salinger or George Orwell, the kind of book that can wake you up in every single meaning of those words. The story, which involves a dystopian world where firemen start fires in order to eradicate all books, could make a misanthrope or an activist out of any teen in one single reading.
It’s not entirely surprising, then, that it’s a property that has both tempted many filmmakers and scared many of them away, with one notable exception. That would be Francois Truffaut, who crafted a rather brilliant and personal adaptation of Bradbury’s novel back in 1966, which was one of his most memorable color films. Since then, though, there hasn’t been any filmic adaptation of the source material, beyond a few rumors that floated around in the 1990s and the aughts. Now, however, HBO is looking to produce their own adaptation of Bradbury’s nightmarish narrative, with 99 Homes auteur Ramin Bahrani set to direct the entire project.
It’s an interesting promising move for Bahrani, who has focused on realistic narratives centered around many modern-day struggles in his films thus far. His solid debut, Man Push Cart, and its excellent follow-up, Chop Shop, took a look at the immigrant experience in America, but searched beyond racism and religious persecution to gaze at the far more intimate reverberations of leaving your home country for something like opportunity. Since then, the filmmaker has made three more high-profile films, beginning with the critically praised Goodbye Solo, followed-up closely by the largely (rightly) maligned At Any Price, which starred Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron as a father-son diptych of farm owners.
In other words, Bahrani has never had to get too imaginative in either his sense of production or costume design, nor has he ever had to deal with the language of the future or a parallel dimension. It could prove to be the project that tests Bahrani in the right ways to reach beyond the more simplistic stories he’s been telling thus far and spark his visual imagination in a way that has been lacking a bit in his oeuvre. We shall see.