Barry Lyndon – Daily Movie Review (14.12.2012)
Review of Barry Lyndon by Stanley Kubrick
Barry Lyndon and I have a funny history: My girlfriend had just split up with me and I was staying at my parent’s house for a few days. I could not sleep and in the middle of the night I was just zapping around. I stopped when I saw the famous duel scene of Barry Lyndon. Having never seen the movie before I was immediately fascinated at how well it was shot and how much tension and energy this scene contained. I thought to myself “This looks as if Stanley Kubrick has shot it!”. I watched until the end and when the credits rolled…Well, Barry Lyndon was shot by Kubrick! The next day I ordered the DVD (this was way before the advent of Blu-ray). When I got back home I watched Barry Lyndon with my best friend who went through a rough time as well. We drank three bottles of red wine, became pretty wasted and praised the movie like it was Citizen Kane 2.0. We were able to identify with the flawed main protagonist, Redmond Barry, who often was kind of a douchebag but still very human. He just felt relatable.
Since then I have watched Barry Lyndon multiple times – most often even sober! I still love it for multiple reasons. It is sad that in Kubrick’s filmography Barry Lyndon is mostly regarded as one of his lesser efforts. I could not disagree more. First it is WONDERFULLY shot. Almost every frame is a view to behold. Kubrick used almost no artificial lighting and was inspired by paintings from the 19th century. This shows in every scene. Barry Lyndon is honestly one of the most wonderful looking movies I have ever seen! Second the story really spans almost Redmond Barry’s entire life. He has to leave his village, since he thinks he has killed a man, because they love the same woman. Love is what gets him exiled and this somehow influences his whole life. He later gets forced to join the British army and later the Prussian troops. That is why he becomes quite hard-boiled. It is easy to see how and why this man develops the way that he does. I don´t want to spoil the movie to you, but he later does some despicable things. Especially to his wife, Lady Lyndon. When Redmond Barry becomes Barry Lyndon his life changes and so does the perspective of the viewer.
The movie is quite different from the novel by William M. Thackeray. In the book Barry is even more of a jackass and the whole story is told by himself. So there is a lot more irony and humour in it. For example Barry reveals that every man from Ireland claims to be related to the king and of course it is all rubbish. But he is the one REALLY related to the king’s dynasty. It is a lof of fun to read and never feels like a book that was first released in 1844. Really, I´d advise anyone to give it a try! The ebook is even available legally for free! Well, the movie differs from the book, because here it is a neutral voice who tells us the story of Redmond Barry. This way you feel a lot more distanced from his life experiences. Still Barry Lyndon is often pretty moving. You can see Barry is a man with deep feelings the way he laments for one of his only true friends, Captain Grogan. Although Redmond Barry often acts extremely selfish one can´t avoid feeling pity for him, when it all comes crashing down on him.
There has been a Blu-ray release which is okay. Warner Bros. released the DVD in 1,66:1 which is European widescreen. They changed the Blu-ray to 1,78:1 so it fills your TV. I did not like this change as the picture feels too “crowded” sometimes. But with Kubricks movies it is extremely hard to tell which is the “original” aspect ratio. So probably this does not bother most viewers. Apart from the change in aspect ratio the Blu-ray looks quite fine and is only limited by the soft source material. Sadly there are no real bonus materials on it. The lossless audio track is very good. It accentuates the fantastic classical soundtrack. One of the main themes of Barry Lyndon is “Sarabande” by Georg Friedrich Händel. The recording used in Barry Lyndon is beloved by fans of classical music and extremely fitting here.
Barry Lyndon is one of my favourite films and one of the best Kubrick has ever made. My score for this gem is 10/10.