Kristen Stewart 1984

Since last October, Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult have been attached to star in Equals, a romantic film from director Drake Doremus (Like Crazy). Until now, that’s about all that’s been known about the film. This week, however, Stewart dropped a bombshell to US Magazine: it’s actually an adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian sci-fi classic 1984. Or rather, as US Magazine has slightly strangely reported, it’s a remake of the 1956 cinematic adaptation of the novel. Exactly why that’s important, no-one’s totally sure — though some folks in the blogosphere have ideas.

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Unsurprisingly, not everyone loves the news that 1984 is being made into “a love story of epic, epic, epic proportion,” as Stewart herself describes it. Sci-fi site io9 was one of the first to jump on the news, treating it as further evidence that “life is pain”. They did seem to under-appreciate the importance of the love story to Orwell’s novel, however – the love story is very central to the book, and its core ideas rely on it. io9 took particular umbrage at Stewart’s description of the story as “a really basic concept” – not quite what most people would say of the classic literary masterpiece.

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Empire took interest in Stewart’s comments about the 1956 film, digging up the fact that an alternate cut of that movie included a radical change to the ending where, essentially, love conquers all and the protagonists stick it out with each other to the very end, rather than betraying each other as they famously do in Orwell’s novel. They speculate that’s what Doremus might be adapting here.

Fans of the book will of course realize that’s basically the exact opposite of the message of the original: Orwell was emphasizing the ability of a fascist state to destroy its citizens’ love and make them love the state above all else. If their love for each other triumphs, it basically misses the point of the book by bloody miles. It’s a bit like making a version of Romeo and Juliet where they live happily ever after.

Writers at Slashfilm found themselves hoping that Equals has less of a connection to 1984 than has been reported, which could help to relieve some fans’ ire. If it’s a bit less adaptation and a bit more ‘inspired by’, the epic love story perspective might be more easily forgiven. That’ll surely never be enough to appease some, however, and there will be plenty out there who don’t want any icky romance getting in the way of the sociopolitical commentary – no matter how much it was there in the book in the first place.

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