A title sequence has several goals: it should engage the viewer in the film, establish/reflect the themes and tone of the film, and it should give some credit to the cast and crew. The title sequence for François Truffaut’s screen adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 does each of these things most eloquently.
Most notably, to forgo text – in reflection of the original novel’s key theme – the credits are read aloud by an authoritative and omnipresent narrator, a brave decision considering almost all title sequences to come before included text as a key element. This, coupled with the images of television antennae, banish written words from the onset.
Another interesting aesthetic choice is the use of monochromatic images of the antennae, each shot has an overall wash of a different colour. Possibly just a gimmick to show off their deeply saturated Technicolor film, it could be an innovative way of blurring the line between science-fiction and reality. Although all of the shots are tinted a specific colour, one of the shots is tinted incredibly lightly, and tinted a cyan colour that leaves the sky blue and the buildings almost brown. As the zoom hurls us towards the antenna it goes unnoticed that the sky is blue – normal, sky-blue! – at first it appears to be yet another bight, unnatural colour. This embodies that very idea: how can one tell the difference between what’s ‘normal’ and what’s not, in such an obscure context?
Finally, watching this film fifty years after its initial release gives a new meaning to the use of analogue television antennae. Though one can’t begin to pretend Truffaut would’ve seen this, there’s a rich statement in how dated the film looks, despite it being set in the future; seeing a future society without access to literature so primitive is a powerful way of demonstrating the importance of literature in the advancement of human society – a key theme in Bradbury’s novel. And a twenty-forth century people still using analogue television appears to show this primitiveness.
Slightly further reading:
The Guardian ‘Reading the Film‘
Nerdwriter1 on Film Titles
New York Times Review (1966)