Review of Barry Lyndon (1975)

Moving picture, 3.1 hours

Stanley Kubrick (writer-director).

A poor Irishman of genteel descent and loosely fitted scruples ambulates through war-torn central Europe in the 18th century, until he is able to settle down and have a beloved child with fatal consequences.

Dysteleological historical drama. Simply structured and significantly less nihilistic than A Clockwork Orange (1971), which is a shame. Being brilliant, Kubrick does manage to prevent redemption from finally materializing alongside sympathy. It feels optimally paced at 184 minutes despite or because of its many scenes of blank stares, perhaps due to flawless narration by Michael Hordern, known for his excellent Gandalf.

My favourite anecdote about this film comes from this 2004-03-27 Guardian article by Jon Ronson:

A 1975 telex, from a picture publicity man at Warner Bros called Mark Kauffman, regards publicity stills for Kubrick’s sombre reworking of Thackeray’s Barry Lyndon. It reads: "Received additional material. Is there any material with humour or zaniness that you could send?"

Kubrick replies, clearly through gritted teeth: "The style of the picture is reflected by the stills you have already received. The film is based on William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel which, though it has irony and wit, could not be well described as zany."

References here: The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982).

moving picture fiction