Saturday, July 26, 2008

Brideshead Revisited

Brideshead has never been so magnificent as it is portrayed in the new cinema version directed by Julian Jarrold. Emma Thompson is scintillating in her portrayal of Lady Marchmain in an Academy award worthy performance. Standing out among the major roles are Michael Gambon as Lord Marchmain and Matthew Goode as Charles Ryder; but the whole cast is excellent.
The film highlights the plot from the book with an ultimate focus on temptation; and the world between the wars, through eyes clouded by longing. The action of the book is compressed and intensified by the time limits of film, but with very few exceptions the story and character of the book are honored by this version. The adaptation is very creditable - it certainly shows the appeal of the story. Those who are really entranced by it ought to go and read Waugh's book and rent DVD's of the Granada miniseries--which was one of the best things ever produced for television. In Jarrold's film the youthful infatuation of Charles and Sebastian is portrayed somewhat more intensely and explicitly than the book, but not in any way other than what might be imagined by any truly empathetic reader. I am also willing to forgive the conflation of including Julia with Charles and Sebastian on the visit to Lord Marchmain and his mistress in Venice. The film is able to convey the overarching feel of decay and the themes of Catholicism and the oppressive relationship of Mother and children. While these themes are certainly important, I was more impressed by the beauty of the many scenes, especially Brideshead which was captured frozen in time as a sort of shrine, chapel and mausoleum for the family and their world. The overall vision of the director was stunning in every detail. As always, read the book, but in this case it is also worthwhile to see the film version.

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