Barry Lyndon Screen 17 articles

Barry Lyndon


Barry Lyndon Poster
  • It's a fine film, but one that you admire from a respectful distance—much the way that museum patrons tend to stand in the center of the gallery with their hands clasped behind their backs, nodding detached approval.

  • Kubrick plays against Thackeray's rollicking roguery with every receding zoom of the Zeiss lens. Even the style of the narration is drastically altered. Hence, whereas Thackeray's "Barry Lyndon" is narrated, except for a brief epilogue, by Barr Lyndon himself in an ironically self-damning manner, Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" is narrated off-screen in the dry-as-dust inflections of Michael Herdern with the awesome authority of a Victorian author behind them.

  • The surprise is partly that of withdrawal and abstraction, achieved through a technique which sustains its moral equilibrium while offering neither psychological justifications nor escapes into melodrama... To make it work, the spectator has first to shed expectations about the genre, and the larkish energy associated with Tom Jones, and then to achieve a series of adjustments between a setting which represents an age's finest view of itself, and the fatalistic melancholy of the human prospect.

  • Protocol thus broken, Barry Lyndon wends toward a gloomy conclusion, with Kubrick shamelessly milking the death of a child and brilliantly staging the last of the movie’s three duels. (Based on a single sentence in Kubrick’s screenplay, this remarkable scene takes nearly 10 minutes.) With a final dance of death, Kubrick closes the parentheses. Summer ends and so does the movie.

  • Despite its ponderous pacing and funereal moods, the film is highly accomplished as a piece of storytelling, and it builds to one of the most suspenseful duels ever staged. It also repays close attention as a complex and fascinating historical meditation, as enigmatic in its way as 2001: A Space Odyssey.

  • The compositions have the beauty of period paintings, yet Kubrick uses this vast sense of space to simulate the claustrophobia and superficiality of the society. It’s as if these paintings come to life are coffins out of which the characters cannot escape, and this distance from his subjects makes most of Barry Lyndon a cold experience. Yet the cumulative effect is moving and powerful. The final sequence brings me to tears each time I watch it.

  • O’Neal’s gauche inability to fit into the surroundings ultimately suits the role, especially as Barry’s circumstances take a severe and irreversible turn. With a god’s-eye omniscience, Kubrick uses slow reverse zooms to move from the human dramas at the forefront, long discarded by history, to recreations of the landscape paintings that endured. The film’s greatness can make a viewer feel like a speck in the cosmos.

  • This has the immediate impact of making the spectacular, pageant-like mise-en-scene feel anticlimactic... Beneath the pomp and technical perfection is a fable about one man's rise and fall along the conventions of his time. Since the conventions themselves remain just beyond comprehension, Ryan O'Neal, as the title character, seems less of an antihero upon repeated viewings and more of a tragic figure--every bit the victim of systems beyond his control as Dave Bowman in 2001.

  • The film ends on a note of ambivalence, an epilogue that emphasizes mortality: "Good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now." The statement might seem cynical in its evocation of death as the great leveler, but if Kubrick's final sentiment appears to undermine the value of the story he's told, the great care he takes with each shot elevates the poor, sad, beautiful fools mummified within his frame. Kubrick and Alcott's remarkable images are immortal.

  • Kubrick and cinematographer John Alcott’s technique here does not simply function in purely cinematic means; there’s a social and thematic angle to it, a sense of getting the bigger picture. One cannot properly understand a dubious literary figure as impassive and opaque as Barry Lyndon if we cannot see him and his fellow characters in proper context. Kubrick’s film is a meditation on socially sanctioned violence in the past.

  • The BFI's re-release arrives most fortuitously – with the UK, as at the start of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, “in a state of great excitement”. That is thanks of course to our freshly signed divorce from Europe, rather than the feared French invasion of the film (much as some UKIPers would relish sharpening their pitchforks for that one). But with Barry Lyndon’s first half unfolding during the upheaval of the Seven Years’ War, it’s full of a nicely synchronised sense of a continent in flux.

  • One of the most beautiful of all Stanley Kubrick’s films, originally released in 1975, this slyly savage tale of social climbing in the 18th century is also arguably his funniest... As leisurely as it is painterly, this is a masterclass in cinematography – famously, Kubrick used nothing but natural light in all but a few scenes.

  • It's a big, beautiful tomb, a rhythmically hypnotic death march, an exquisite painting that traps a man within its brush strokes and never lets him go. It’s also startlingly moving and emotional; a film of sadness and humor and, at times, painful splendor.

  • [The] relative lack of [camera] movement gives Barry Lyndon a haunting solemnity: The rigidity of the characters correlates to the rigidity of the class structure Kubrick portrays, and one of the film's most heartbreaking visual conceits is how Barry, so mobile and human in the first half, seems almost like he's been trapped in a painting, or a jewel box, in the second. The score enhances that sense of entrapment.

  • Barry Lyndon. I can’t believe there was a time when I didn’t know that name. Barry Lyndon means an artwork both grand and glum. Sadness inconsolable. A cello bends out a lurid sound, staining the air before a piano droopingly follows in the third movement of Vivaldi's “Cello Concerto in E Minor.” This piece, which dominates the second half of the film, steers the hallowed half of my head to bask in the film’s high melancholic temperature.

  • Being told in advance that disasters await doesn’t alleviate their impact, any more than does the optical beauty with which we are to be lavished for three hours. There is musical beauty too, an inescapable sonic flow incorporating Handel, Vivaldi, Schubert, and (in the first half) the traditional Irish music of the Chieftains. The music moves with its own sense of purpose, sometimes underscoring, sometimes contradicting what we see.

  • Kubrick's reputation as a staunch perfectionist could scarcely have been more well-earned than it was here, or more well-matched to the material. Furthermore, Kubrick's flair for bringing to the art form a supreme dilettante's breadth of knowledge reached some kind of apotheosis here, so that no single detail can be regarded as anything other than the result of excruciating consideration on the director's part.

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