Review: Barry Lyndon #KubrickDay

Stanley Kubrick’s film of Barry Lyndon adapted from William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel will be rereleased on Friday 29 July. Despite having a running time of 184 minutes it is: engaging, witty and contains a message of greed and self destruction that wonderfully demonstrates that human nature has not changed over the centuries.

The epilogue to the film is this: It was in the reign of George III that the aforesaid personages lived and quarrelled; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now. It sums up the film wonderfully yet reveals very little.

Kubrick’s masterclass in filmmaking is not just in the writing or how he splits the film into three acts but in how he manages to bring all those pieces together and distil the central core of Thackeray’s tome. The narrator is a wonderful addition so as not to lose the audience yet not without his own views on Barry Lyndon’s exploits. Ryan O’Neal is cast in the central role of Barry Lyndon the amoral young Irish man who will stop at nothing to climb the social ladder.

Barry Lyndon won 4 Oscars and 2 BAFTAs and they were duly deserved. The cinematography is wonderful as well as the direction. However, it is the language and dialogue that are remarkable – this film does not dilute the richness of the text.

You have to engage and listen but from the very beginning you want to and do so with ease. You are both advocate and repelled by Barry Lyndon in equal measure. Here is a young man whose father was killed in a duel and raised alone by a socially ambitious mother who devoted herself entirely to her son. Spoilt, indulged and lacking accountability the young Barry Lyndon wrecks havoc first in family affairs and then in the affairs of others. With the ending one might say the premise of the film is not social climbing but to quote another great work of English literature the Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare: “the sins of the father are to be laid upon the children”.

Enjoy this amazing film on the big screen will be re-released at BFI, click here to read more, on Friday 29 July rated PG.

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