Theatrical release poster by Jouineau Bourduge
|Directed by||Stanley Kubrick|
|Produced by||Stanley Kubrick|
|Screenplay by||Stanley Kubrick|
|Based on||The Luck of Barry Lyndon|
by William Makepeace Thackeray
|Edited by||Tony Lawson|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$20.2 million|
Barry Lyndon is a 1975 period drama film written and directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on the 1844 novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray. It stars Ryan O'Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Leonard Rossiter and Hardy Krüger. The film recounts the early exploits and later unravelling of a fictional 18th-century Irish rogue and opportunist who marries a rich widow to climb the social ladder and assume her late husband's aristocratic position.
Kubrick began production on Barry Lyndon after his 1971 film, A Clockwork Orange. Kubrick had originally intended to direct a biopic on Napoleon, but lost his financing due to the commercial failure of a similar film, Waterloo. Kubrick eventually directed Barry Lyndon, set during the Seven Years' War, utilising his research from his Napoleon project. Filming lasted roughly 8 months, beginning in December 1973, and took place in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Germany.
The film's cinematography has been described as ground-breaking. Especially notable are the long double shots, usually ended with a slow backwards zoom, the scenes shot entirely in candlelight, and the settings based on William Hogarth paintings. The exteriors were filmed on location in Ireland, England and Germany, with the interiors shot mainly in London. The production was troubled; there were problems related to logistics, weather, and even politics (Kubrick feared that he might be an IRA hostage target), while the relationship between Kubrick and O'Neal was especially fraught and difficult. O'Neal's perceived lack of on-screen depth and ability to portray a character arc have been repeatedly criticised; this perception was not shared by Kubrick, who subsequently praised O'Neal's performance.
Barry Lyndon won four Oscars in production categories at the 1975 Academy Awards. Although some critics took issue with the film's slow pace and restrained emotion, its reputation, like that of many of Kubrick's works, has strengthened over time, with many now regarding it as one of his greatest achievements.
An omniscient (though possibly unreliable) narrator relates that in 1750s Ireland, the father of Redmond Barry is killed in a duel over a sale of some horses. The widow, disdaining offers of marriage, devotes herself to her only son.
Barry becomes infatuated with his older cousin, Nora Brady. Though she charms him during a card game, she later shows interest in a well-off British Army captain, John Quin, much to Barry's dismay. Nora and her family plan to leverage their finances through marriage, while Barry holds Quin in contempt and escalates the situation to a duel, when Barry shoots Quin. In the aftermath, he flees from the police towards Dublin, and is robbed by Captain Feeney, a highwayman.
Dejected, Barry joins the British Army. Some time after, he encounters Captain Grogan, a family friend. Grogan informs him that Barry did not in fact kill Quin, his dueling pistol having only been loaded with tow. The duel was staged by Nora's family to be rid of Barry so that their finances would be secured through a lucrative marriage.
His regiment is sent to Germany to fight in the Seven Years' War, where Grogan is fatally wounded in a skirmish preliminary to the Battle of Minden. Fed up with the war, Barry deserts the army, stealing an officer courier's uniform, horse, and identification papers after discovering the officer is homosexual. En route to neutral Holland Barry encounters Lieschen, a German girl whose lover left for the war and never returned. Lieschen feeds and houses Barry. The two briefly become lovers. After leaving Barry encounters the Prussian Captain Potzdorf, who, seeing through his disguise, offers him the choice of being turned back over to the British, where he will be shot as a deserter, or enlisting in the Prussian Army. Barry enlists in his second army and later receives a special commendation from Frederick the Great for saving Potzdorf's life in a battle.
Two years later, after the war ends in 1763, Barry is employed by Captain Potzdorf's uncle in the Prussian Ministry of Police to become the servant of the Chevalier de Balibari, an itinerant professional gambler. The Prussians suspect he is an Irish spy in the service of the Austrians, and send Barry as an undercover agent to verify this. Barry is overcome with emotion upon meeting a fellow Irishman and reveals himself to the Chevalier immediately. They become confederates at the card table, where Barry and his fine eyesight relay information to the Chevalier. After he and the Chevalier cheat the Prince of Tübingen at the card table, the Prince accuses the Chevalier of cheating (without proof) and refuses to pay his debt and demands satisfaction. When Barry relays this to his Prussian handlers, they (still suspecting that the Chevalier is a spy) are wary of allowing another meeting between the Chevalier and the Prince. So, the Prussians arrange for the Chevalier to be expelled from the country. Barry conveys this plan to the Chevalier, who flees in the night. The next morning, Barry, under disguise as the Chevalier, is escorted from Prussian territory by Prussian army officers.
Over the next few years, Barry and the Chevalier travel the spas and parlors of Europe, profiting from their gambling with Barry forcing payment from reluctant debtors with sword duels. Seeing that his life is going nowhere, Barry decides to marry into wealth. At a gambling table in Spa, he encounters the beautiful and wealthy Countess of Lyndon. He seduces and later marries her after the death of her elderly husband, Sir Charles Lyndon. Because Lyndon is frail, sickly, and old, Barry's goading and verbal repartee ultimately send him into a fit of convulsions that ends with his death. Barry's coup-de-grace is the assertion that "he who laughs last, wins".
In 1773, Barry takes the Countess' last name in marriage and settles in England to enjoy her wealth, still with no money of his own. Lord Bullingdon, Lady Lyndon's ten-year-old son by Sir Charles, does not approve of the marriage and quickly comes to despise Barry, calling him a "common opportunist" who does not truly love his mother. Barry retaliates by subjecting Bullingdon to systematic physical abuse. The Countess bears Barry a son, Bryan Patrick, but the marriage is unhappy: Barry is openly unfaithful and enjoys spending his wife's money on self-indulgent luxuries, while keeping his wife in seclusion.
Some years later, Barry's mother comes to live with him at the Lyndon estate. She warns her son that if Lady Lyndon were to die, all her wealth would go to her first-born son Lord Bullingdon, leaving Barry and his son Bryan penniless. Barry's mother advises him to obtain a noble title to protect himself. To further this goal, he cultivates the acquaintance of the influential Lord Wendover and begins to expend even larger sums of money to ingratiate himself to high society. All this effort is wasted, however, during a birthday party for Lady Lyndon. A now young adult Lord Bullingdon crashes the event where he publicly enumerates the reasons that he detests his stepfather so dearly, declaring it his intent to leave the family estate for as long as Barry remains there and married to his mother. Barry viciously assaults Bullingdon until he is physically restrained by the guests. This loses Barry the wealthy and powerful friends he has worked to entreat and he is cast out of polite society. Nevertheless, Bullingdon makes good on his word by leaving the estate and England.
In contrast to his mistreatment of his stepson, Barry proves an overindulgent and doting father to Bryan, with whom he spends all his time after Bullingdon's departure. He cannot refuse his son anything, and succumbs to Bryan's insistence on receiving a full-grown horse for his ninth birthday. Defying his parents' direct instructions that he ride the horse only in the presence of his father, the spoiled Bryan is thrown from the horse, paralyzed, and dies a few days later from his injuries.
The grief-stricken Barry turns to alcohol, while Lady Lyndon seeks solace in religion, assisted by the Reverend Samuel Runt, who had been tutor first to Lord Bullingdon and then to Bryan. Left in charge of the families' affairs while Barry and Lady Lyndon grieve, Barry's mother dismisses the Reverend, both because the family no longer needs (nor can afford, due to Barry's spending debts) a tutor and for fear that his influence worsens Lady Lyndon's condition. Plunging even deeper into grief, Lady Lyndon later attempts suicide (though she ingests only enough poison to make herself violently ill). The Reverend and the family's accountant Graham then seek out Lord Bullingdon. Upon hearing of these events, Lord Bullingdon returns to England where he finds Barry drunk in a gentlemen's club, mourning the loss of his son rather than being with Lady Lyndon. Bullingdon demands satisfaction for Barry's public assault, challenging him to a duel.
The duel with pistols is held in a tithe barn. A coin toss gives Bullingdon the right of first fire, but he nervously misfires his pistol as he prepares to shoot. Terrified, Bullingdon demands another chance before he vomits in fear. Barry, reluctant to shoot Bullingdon, magnanimously fires into the ground, but the unmoved Bullingdon refuses to let the duel end, claiming he has not received "satisfaction". In the second round, Bullingdon shoots Barry in his left leg. At a nearby inn, a surgeon informs Barry that the leg will need to be amputated below the knee if he is to survive.
While Barry is recovering, Bullingdon re-takes control of the Lyndon estate. A few days later, Lord Bullingdon sends a very nervous Graham to the inn with a proposition: Lord Bullingdon will grant Barry an annuity of five hundred guineas a year on the condition that he leave England, with payments ending the moment should Barry ever return. Otherwise, with his credit and bank accounts exhausted, Barry's creditors and bill collectors will assuredly see that he is jailed. Defeated in mind and body, Barry accepts. Humiliated, he hobbles on crutches to a carriage.
The narrator states that Barry went first back to Ireland with his mother, then once he was fully recovered, he traveled to the European continent to resume his former profession of gambler (though without his former success). Barry kept his word and never returned to England or ever saw Lady Lyndon again. The final scene (set in December 1789) shows a middle-aged Lady Lyndon signing Barry's annuity cheque as her son looks on.
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.
Critic Tim Robey suggests that the film "makes you realise that the most undervalued aspect of Kubrick's genius could well be his way with actors." He adds that the supporting cast is a "glittering procession of cameos, not from star names but from vital character players."
The cast featured Leon Vitali as the older Lord Bullingdon, who would then become Kubrick's personal assistant, working as the casting director on his following films, and supervising film-to-video transfers for Kubrick. Their relationship lasted until Kubrick's death. The film's cinematographer, John Alcott, appears at the men's club in the non-speaking role of the man asleep in a chair near the title character when Lord Bullingdon challenges Barry to a duel. Kubrick's daughter Vivian also appears (in an uncredited role) as a guest at Bryan's birthday party.
Other Kubrick featured regulars were Leonard Rossiter (2001: A Space Odyssey), Steven Berkoff, Patrick Magee, Godfrey Quigley, Anthony Sharp and Philip Stone (A Clockwork Orange). Stone would go on to feature in The Shining.
After completing post production on 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick resumed planning a film about Napoleon. During pre-production, Sergei Bondarchuk and Dino De Laurentiis' Waterloo was released, and failed at the box office. Reconsidering, Kubrick's financiers pulled funding, and he turned his attention towards an adaptation of Anthony Burgess's 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange. Subsequently, Kubrick showed an interest in Thackeray's Vanity Fair but dropped the project when a serialised version for television was produced. He told an interviewer, "At one time, Vanity Fair interested me as a possible film but, in the end, I decided the story could not be successfully compressed into the relatively short time-span of a feature film ... as soon as I read Barry Lyndon I became very excited about it."
Having earned Oscar nominations for Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick's reputation in the early 1970s was that of "a perfectionist auteur who loomed larger over his movies than any concept or star." His studio—Warner Bros.—was therefore "eager to bankroll" his next project, which Kubrick kept "shrouded in secrecy" from the press partly due to the furore surrounding the controversially violent A Clockwork Orange (particularly in the UK) and partly due to his "long-standing paranoia about the tabloid press."
Having felt compelled to set aside his plans for a film about Napoleon Bonaparte, Kubrick set his sights on Thackeray's 1844 "satirical picaresque about the fortune-hunting of an Irish rogue," Barry Lyndon, the setting of which allowed Kubrick to take advantage of the copious period research he had done for the now-aborted Napoleon. At the time, Kubrick merely announced that his next film would star Ryan O'Neal (deemed "a seemingly un-Kubricky choice of leading man") and Marisa Berenson, a former Vogue and Time magazine cover model, and be shot largely in Ireland. So heightened was the secrecy surrounding the film that "Even Berenson, when Kubrick first approached her, was told only that it was to be an 18th-century costume piece [and] she was instructed to keep out of the sun in the months before production, to achieve the period-specific pallor he required."
Principal photography took 300 days, from spring 1973 through to early 1974, with a break for Christmas. The crew arrived in Dublin, Ireland in May 1973. Jan Harlan recalls that Kubrick "loved his time in Ireland - he rented a lovely house west of Dublin, he loved the scenery and the culture and the people". 
Many of the exteriors were shot in Ireland, playing "itself, England, and Prussia during the Seven Years' War." Drawing inspiration from "the landscapes of Watteau and Gainsborough," Kubrick and cinematographer Alcott also relied on the "scrupulously researched art direction" of Ken Adam and Roy Walker. Alcott, Adam and Walker were among those who would win Oscars for their "amazing work" on the film.
Several of the interior scenes were filmed in Powerscourt House, an 18th-century mansion in County Wicklow, Republic of Ireland. The house was destroyed in an accidental fire several months after filming (November 1974), so the film serves as a record of the lost interiors, particularly the "Saloon" which was used for more than one scene. The Wicklow Mountains are visible, for example, through the window of the saloon during a scene set in Berlin. Other locations included Kells Priory (the English Redcoat encampment) Blenheim Palace, Castle Howard (exteriors of the Lyndon estate), Huntington Castle, Clonegal (exterior), Corsham Court (various interiors and the music room scene), Petworth House (chapel), Stourhead (lake and temple), Longleat, and Wilton House (interior and exterior) in England, Dunrobin Castle (exterior and garden as Spa) in Scotland, Dublin Castle in Ireland (the chevalier's home), Ludwigsburg Palace near Stuttgart and Frederick the Great's Neues Palais at Potsdam near Berlin (suggesting Berlin's main street Unter den Linden as construction in Potsdam had just begun in 1763). Some exterior shots were also filmed at Waterford Castle (now a luxury hotel and golf course) and Little Island, Waterford. Moorstown Castle in Tipperary also featured. Several scenes were filmed at Castletown House outside Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary, and at Youghal, Co. Cork.
The filming took place in the backdrop of some of the most intense years of the Troubles in Ireland, during which the Provisional Irish Republican Army (Provisional IRA) was waging an armed campaign in order to bring about a United Ireland.
One day a phone call was received and Kubrick was given 24 hours to leave the country, he left within 12 hours. The phone call alleged that the Provisional IRA had him on a hit list and Harlan recalls "Whether the threat was a hoax or it was real, almost doesn't matter ... Stanley was not willing to take the risk. He was threatened, and he packed his bag and went home" 
The film—as with "almost every Kubrick film"—is a "showcase for [a] major innovation in technique." While 2001: A Space Odyssey had featured "revolutionary effects," and The Shining would later feature heavy use of the Steadicam, Barry Lyndon saw a considerable number of sequences shot "without recourse to electric light." Cinematography was overseen by director of photography John Alcott (who won an Oscar for his work), and is particularly noted for the technical innovations that made some of its most spectacular images possible. To achieve photography without electric lighting "[f]or the many densely furnished interior scenes… meant shooting by candlelight," which is known to be difficult in still photography, "let alone with moving images."
Kubrick was "determined not to reproduce the set-bound, artificially lit look of other costume dramas from that time." After "tinker[ing] with different combinations of lenses and film stock," the production obtained three super-fast 50mm lenses (Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/0.7) developed by Zeiss for use by NASA in the Apollo moon landings, which Kubrick had discovered. These super-fast lenses "with their huge aperture (the film actually features the lowest f-stop in film history) and fixed focal length" were problematic to mount, and were extensively modified into three versions by Cinema Products Corp. for Kubrick so to gain a wider angle of view, with input from optics expert Richard Vetter of Todd-AO. The rear element of the lens had to be 2.5 mm away from the film plane, requiring special modification to the rotating camera shutter. This allowed Kubrick and Alcott to shoot scenes lit in candlelight to an average lighting volume of only three candela, "recreating the huddle and glow of a pre-electrical age." In addition, Kubrick had the entire film push-developed by one stop.
Although Kubrick's express desire was to avoid electric lighting where possible, most shots were achieved with conventional lenses and lighting, but were lit to deliberately mimic natural light rather than for compositional reasons. In addition to potentially seeming more realistic, these methods also gave a particular period look to the film which has often been likened to 18th-century paintings (which were, of course, depicting a world devoid of electric lighting), in particular owing "a lot to William Hogarth, with whom Thackeray had always been fascinated."
The film is widely regarded as having a stately, static, painterly quality, mostly due to its lengthy wide angle long shots. To illuminate the more notable interior scenes, artificial lights were placed outside and aimed through the windows, which were covered in a diffuse material to scatter the light evenly through the room rather than being placed inside for maximum use as most conventional films do. An example of this method occurs in the scene where Barry duels Lord Bullingdon. Though it appears to be lit entirely with natural light, one can see that the light coming in through the cross-shaped windows in the tithe barn appears blue in color, while the main lighting of the scene coming in from the side is not. This is because the light through the cross-shaped windows is daylight from the sun, which when recorded on the film stock used by Kubrick showed up as blue-tinted compared to the incandescent electric light coming in from the side.
Despite such slight tinting effects, this method of lighting not only gave the look of natural daylight coming in through the windows, but it also protected the historic locations from the damage caused by mounting the lights on walls or ceilings and the heat from the lights. This helped the film "fit… perfectly with Kubrick's gilded-cage aesthetic – the film is consciously a museum piece, its characters pinned to the frame like butterflies."
|Soundtrack album by |
|Released||December 27, 1975|
The film's period setting allowed Kubrick to indulge his penchant for classical music, and the film score uses pieces by Bach, Vivaldi, Paisiello, Mozart, and Schubert.[note 1] The piece most associated with the film, however, is the main title music, Handel's Sarabande from the Keyboard suite in D minor (HWV 437). Originally for solo harpsichord, the versions for the main and end titles are performed with orchestral strings, harpsichord, and timpani. The score also includes Irish folk music, including Seán Ó Riada's song Women of Ireland, arranged by Paddy Moloney and performed by The Chieftains. The British Grenadiers also features in scenes with Redcoats marching.
|1.||"Sarabande–Main Title"||George Frideric Handel||National Philharmonic Orchestra||2:38|
|2.||"Women of Ireland"||Peadar Ó Doirnín, Seán Ó Riada||The Chieftains||4:08|
|3.||"Piper's Maggot Jig"||traditional||The Chieftains||1:39|
|4.||"The Sea-Maiden"||traditional||The Chieftains||2:02|
|5.||"Tin Whistles"||Ó Riada||Paddy Moloney & Seán Potts||3:41|
|6.||"The British Grenadiers"||traditional||Fifes & Drums||2:12|
|7.||"Hohenfriedberger March"||Frederick the Great||Fifes & Drums||1:12|
|8.||"Lillibullero"||traditional||Fifes & Drums||1:06|
|9.||"Women of Ireland"||Ó Riada||Derek Bell||0:52|
|10.||"March from Idomeneo"||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart||National Philharmonic Orchestra||1:29|
|11.||"Sarabande–Duel"||Handel||National Philharmonic Orchestra||3:11|
|13.||"German Dance no. 1 in C major"||Franz Schubert||National Philharmonic Orchestra||2:12|
|14.||"Sarabande–Duel"||Handel||National Philharmonic Orchestra||0:48|
|15.||"Film Adaptation of the Cavatina from Il barbiere di Siviglia"||Giovanni Paisiello||National Philharmonic Orchestra||4:28|
|16.||"Cello Concerto in E minor"||Antonio Vivaldi||Lucerne Festival Strings/Pierre Fournier/Rudolf Baumgartner||3:49|
|17.||"Adagio from Concerto for two harpsichords in C minor"||Johann Sebastian Bach||Münchener Bach-Orchester/Hedwig Bilgram/Karl Richter||5:10|
|18.||"Film Adaptation of Piano Trio in E-flat, Op. 100 (second movement)"||Schubert||Moray Welsh/Anthony Goldstone/Ralph Holmes||4:12|
|19.||"Sarabande–End Title"||Handel||National Philharmonic Orchestra||4:07|
*sales figures based on certification alone
The film "was not the commercial success Warner Bros. had been hoping for" within the United States, although it fared better in Europe. In the US it earned $9.1 million. Ultimately, the film grossed a worldwide total of $31.5 million on an $11 million budget.
This mixed reaction saw the film (in the words of one retrospective review) "greeted, on its release, with dutiful admiration – but not love. Critics ... rail[ed] against the perceived coldness of Kubrick's style, the film's self-conscious artistry and slow pace. Audiences, on the whole, rather agreed ..."
Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote that the film "is almost aggressive in its cool detachment. It defies us to care, it forces us to remain detached about its stately elegance." He added, "This must be one of the most beautiful films ever made." Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the film "another fascinating challenge from one of our most remarkable, independent-minded directors." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote, "I found 'Barry Lyndon' to be quite obvious about its intentions and thoroughly successful in achieving them. Kubrick has taken a novel about a social class and has turned it into an utterly comfortable story that conveys the stunning emptiness of upper-class life only 200 years past." He ranked the film fifth on his year-end list of the best films of 1975. Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times called it "the motion picture equivalent of one of those very large, very heavy, very expensive, very elegant and very dull books that exist solely to be seen on coffee tables. It is ravishingly beautiful and incredibly tedious in about equal doses, a succession of salon quality still photographs—as often as not very still indeed." The Washington Post wrote, "It's not inaccurate to describe 'Barry Lyndon' as a masterpiece, but it's a deadend masterpiece, an objet d'art rather than a movie. It would be more at home, and perhaps easier to like, on the bookshelf, next to something like 'The Age of the Grand Tour,' than on the silver screen." Pauline Kael of The New Yorker wrote that "Kubrick has taken a quick-witted story" and "controlled it so meticulously that he's drained the blood out of it," adding, "It's a coffee-table movie; we might as well be at a three-hour slide show for art-history majors."
This "air of disappointment" factored into Kubrick's decision for his next film – Stephen King's The Shining – a project that would not only please him artistically, but also be more likely to succeed financially.
In recent years, the film has gained a more positive reaction. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 91% based on 69 reviews, with an average rating of 8.39. The website's critical consensus reads, "Cynical, ironic, and suffused with seductive natural lighting, Barry Lyndon is a complex character piece of a hapless man doomed by Georgian society." Roger Ebert added the film to his 'Great Movies' list on 9 September 2009, writing, "Stanley Kubrick's 'Barry Lyndon,' received indifferently in 1975, has grown in stature in the years since and is now widely regarded as one of the master's best. It is certainly in every frame a Kubrick film: technically awesome, emotionally distant, remorseless in its doubt of human goodness."
Director Martin Scorsese has named Barry Lyndon as his favourite Kubrick film, and it is also one of Lars von Trier's favourite films. Quotations from its script have also appeared in such disparate works as Ridley Scott's The Duellists, Scorsese's The Age of Innocence, and Wes Anderson's Rushmore.
|Academy Awards||Best Picture||Stanley Kubrick||Nominated|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Nominated|
|Best Production Design||Ken Adam, Roy Walker and Vernon Dixon||Won|
|Best Costume Design||Milena Canonero and Ulla-Britt Söderlund||Won|
|Best Cinematography||John Alcott||Won|
|Best Original Score||Leonard Rosenman||Won|
|British Academy Film Awards||Best Film||Nominated|
|Best Director||Stanley Kubrick||Won|
|Best Production Design||Ken Adam||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Milena Canonero and Ulla-Britt Söderlund||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||John Alcott||Won|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Motion Picture – Drama||Nominated|
|Best Director||Stanley Kubrick||Nominated|
As with any Stanley Kubrick film, there is a great deal of subtle messages and deeper meanings. The main theme explored in Barry Lyndon is one of fate and destiny. Barry is pushed through life by a series of key events, some of which seem unavoidable. As Roger Ebert says, "He is a man to whom things happen." He declines to eat with the highwaymen Captain Feeney, where he would most likely have been robbed, but is robbed anyway farther down the road. The narrator repeatedly emphasizes the role of fate as he announces events before they unfold on screen, like Brian's death and Bullingdon seeking satisfaction. This theme of fate is also developed in the reoccurring motif of the painting. Just like the events featured in the paintings, Barry is participating in events which always were. Another major theme is between father and son. Barry lost his father at a young age and throughout the film he seeks and attaches himself to father-figures. Examples include his uncle, Grogan, and the Chevalier. When given the chance to be a father, Barry loves his son to the point of spoiling him. This contrasts with his role as a father to Lord Bullingdon, whom he disregards and punishes.
Kubrick based his adapted screenplay on William Makepeace Thackeray's The Luck of Barry Lyndon (republished as the novel Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq.), a picaresque tale written and published in serial form in 1844.
The film departs from the novel in several ways. In Thackeray's writings, events are related in the first person by Barry himself. A comic tone pervades the work, as Barry proves both a raconteur and an unreliable narrator. Kubrick's film, by contrast, presents the story objectively. Though the film contains voice-over (by actor Michael Hordern), the comments expressed are not Barry's, but those of an omniscient narrator. Kubrick felt that using a first-person narrative would not be useful in a film adaptation:
I believe Thackeray used Redmond Barry to tell his own story in a deliberately distorted way because it made it more interesting. Instead of the omniscient author, Thackeray used the imperfect observer, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say the dishonest observer, thus allowing the reader to judge for himself, with little difficulty, the probable truth in Redmond Barry's view of his life. This technique worked extremely well in the novel but, of course, in a film you have objective reality in front of you all of the time, so the effect of Thackeray's first-person story-teller could not be repeated on the screen. It might have worked as comedy by the juxtaposition of Barry's version of the truth with the reality on the screen, but I don't think that Barry Lyndon should have been done as a comedy.
Kubrick made several changes to the plot, including the addition of the final duel.
I'm not sure if I can have a favourite Kubrick picture, but somehow I keep coming back to Barry Lyndon.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Barry Lyndon|