By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

Rahmin Bahrani

Burning books in “Fahrenheit 451″ posed a legal challenge. The cover art of most books is protected by copyright, and in most cases we were unable to obtain permission to display it — let alone burn it on camera. So the art directors for my film designed countless original book covers that we could burn. The question was: Which books? There were always more I wanted to burn than we had time to film. I knew I wanted to include some of my favorites, like “Crime and Punishment,” “Song of Solomon” and the works of Franz Kafka. But we had to burn more than just fiction. Herodotus’ “Histories” — history itself — was incinerated. Pages of Emily Dickinson, Tagore and Ferdowsi’s poetry crumbled into black ash. Hegel, Plato and Grace Lee Boggs’ philosophy were set on fire. The firemen discriminate against no one: Texts in Chinese, Hindi, Persian and Spanish all burned. A Mozart score, an Edvard Munch painting, magazines, newspapers, photographs of Sitting Bull, Frederick Douglass and the 1969 moon landing went up in smoke. Famously banned books had to go: “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” “Lolita,” “Leaves of Grass” and “The Communist Manifesto.” While we were shooting the film, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a frequent target of censorship, was once again banned in some schools, so into the flames it went. For some authors, having a book burned in the film was a badge of honor. Werner Herzog and Hamid Dabashi generously donated their work to be burned alongside the best and the worst of literature. If we save “Wise Blood” then we must preserve “Mein Kampf” as well. Watching the books burn was an otherworldly experience. The hiss of incinerating pages sounded like the final gasps of hundreds of dying souls. The more we burned, the more hypnotic it became — a mesmerizing spectacle of pages curling and embers dancing into the void.”
~ Rahmin Bahrani

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