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Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

London, chief province of Oceania, the future, 1984. Atomic war and famine has resulted in the collapse of civilization and the formation of a new totalitarian regime. The Party, led by the all-seeing presence of Big Brother, regiments life for its citizens, who are identified by number. KZ - 6090, the 35 year-old Winston Smith, has been noticed away from his designated workspace.

Along with other Party members, Winston views announcements by Big Brother on a large 'telescreen', featuring propaganda messages of productivity and news on the war. While helping his neighbours the Parsons, with a plumbing problem, Winston is accused of being a traitor by Parsons' children, who are spies for the Party's Youth League.

Winston visits a bar in a prole sector of the city. Befriending an old man, he questions him about life before the revolution. Returning home, Winston is able to hide from the view of Big Brother in a secret corner of his room. Here he writes his diary, expressing his distaste for the dictatorial rule of the Party.

During mealtime, a fellow worker, Syme, breaks down and is taken away by the Thought Police. Winston becomes intrigued by a woman he has seen, Julia, and discovers a love note from her concealed in his newspaper. Sitting next to each other at the next mealtime, they arrange a secret rendez-vous, away from the watchful eye of Big Brother.

In the privacy of the countryside, they kiss and embrace, acknowledging that their actions will eventually be discovered. Winston tells Julia that he separated from his wife because she regarded their marriage solely as a declaration of support for the Party.

Winston rents an upstairs room from a shopkeeper in the prole sector, so that the lovers can meet regularly. During 'hate week', they avoid the street parades by hiding in their room. Winston is reminded of a painful memory from his childhood, when he discovered his baby sister had been attacked by rats in her cot.

Winston and Julia meet with a party member, O'Brien, who provides them with a book, outlining the ways in which the party can be destroyed. Back in their rented room, their landlord, Cherrington, betrays the lovers, and Party soldiers storm into the room and arrest them.

In prison, Winston encounters his old neighbour Parsons, who has been arrested for 'thought-crime'. He proudly admits that his own daughter, a spy for the Party, denounced him. Winston is subjected to torture by O'Brien, who had earlier tricked him into admitting his hatred towards the party.

In 'room 101', Winston is confronted with his own personal demons - a cage full of rats. After seven weeks of imprisonment and torture, he finally succumbs to the brainwashing and betrays Julia.

During a meeting in a café, the former lovers acknowledge each other's existence but admit their feelings have gone. A Big Brother announcement punctures the silence, declaring victory in war over the Eurasian forces. Winston is overwhelmed with love for Big Brother.