Associate Professor Ramin Bahrani Premieres Film Adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’

May 15, 2018

Film professor and director Ramin Bahrani with Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon on the set of Fahrenheit 451

Associate Film Professor Ramin Bahrani wrote and directed an adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s groundbreaking 1953 novel, Fahrenheit 451. The film adaptation premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and will premiere worldwide on HBO May 19th, to much anticipation.


The premise of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian world where books are outlawed and burned; people mindlessly watch giant screens on their wall all day and interact with others via earbud-like devices called “Seashells.” The novel’s protagonist, Montag, is a firefighter whose job, ironically, is to incinerate books. However, throughout the course of the novel, Montag becomes a secret reader of these forbidden books.


In an interview with Columbia News, Bahrani spoke about the echoes between Bradbury’s book and today’s world. “One of Bradbury’s fears when he published the novel in 1953 was the wave of televisions flooding into American homes. He felt the bombardment of sensations would eliminate reading and critical thought. Our current world’s obsession with social media and reliance on the internet offered eerie similarities to Bradbury’s prophetic vision.”


Bahrani’s film adaptation stars Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther, Creed), who plays Montag, and Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water), as Beatty, Montag’s boss. The two characters both juxtapose and complement one another in the film. “In this iteration, Beatty remains authoritarian and loyal to his job but is also a secret reader, frequently quoting Nietzsche or Kafka....They are both walking contradictions," Bahrani said in a Wall Street Journal article. "Montag looks up to Beatty, then starts to feel betrayed, while Beatty admires and resents Montag's rebellion...In a way, the system is too powerful for either of them.”


A few of Bahrani’s past films include Chop Shop (2007), Man Push Cart (2005), and Goodbye Solo (2008), which won the FIPRESCI critic’s prize for best film in Venice. His films have screened at the Venice, Cannes, Sundance, Berlin and Toronto Film Festivals. In 2010 legendary film critic Roger Ebert proclaimed Bahrani as “the director of the decade.”


In a recent essay written by Bahrani and published in the New York Times, Bahrani spoke about burning books during the making of Fahrenheit 451. His favorite books, along with bestsellers like Harry Potter, banned books, and books in other languages were all incinerated. Artists such as Warner Herzog and Hamid Dabashi “generously donated their work to be burned alongside the best and the worst of literature...For some authors,” Bahrani wrote, “having a book burned in the film was a badge of honor."


Currently, Bahrani is working on a Netflix adaptation of Aravind Adiga’s Manbooker-winning novel, The White Tiger (2008). Adiga and Bahrani were undergraduates at Columbia University together. Bahrani now teaches classes in Directing at Columbia’s MFA Film program.