Stanley Kubrick’s thoughtful period drama Barry Lyndon was released in 1975 to an audience of critics and enthusiasts already convinced of his genius but puzzled by the film’s extremely distant and protracted plot.
Barry Lyndon was eventually nominated for seven Oscars, winning four, and returns to cinemas this month for a limited run.
As an adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel, Kubrick’s film captures the author’s wry wit and sharp observations. It’s three hours long and a hefty film with duels, double agents, domestic cruelty and gambling. Plot twists are abundant but the overarching tale reveals the social progression of a roguish young man, Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal).
His rise and fall begins when Barry is slighted by the older cousin he loves. Kubrick abridges this dense story with the help of the novel’s all-seeing narrator who teases out Thackeray’s comments on society and military service.
Barry Lyndon arrived in cinemas in the decade between Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. In light of these works, it’s surprisingly naturalistic, depicting the spontaneous moods of the landscape from chilling mists to piercing sun and calm twilight.
The make-up is faithful to the period too, a striking contrast to the smoky eyes and volumised hair of John Schlesinger’s Far From The Madding Crowd (1967). John Alcott’s epic, award winning cinematography makes this rare theatrical re-release a must see.
Barry Lyndon is showing at Broadway Nottingham until August 11.