barry lyndon


Barry Lyndon


directed by Stanley Kubrick,

(UK 1975 187 mins)



written and directed by Stanley Kubrick after the novel by William Thackeray (1843) The Luck of Barry Lyndon; a Romance of the Last Century, first published in Fraser's Magazine 1845 -  production design by Ken Adam, art director Roy Walker musical direction by Leonard Rosenman ; photographed by John Alcott, edited by Tony Lawson.

Ryan O'Neal (Redmond Barry), Marisa Berenson (Lady Lyndon), Michael Hordern (Narrator) with Leonard Rossiter.

" The reaction to Barry Lyndon was  a reaction less to what that film is than to what it is not. Because it does not meet demands for action, clear motivation of  characters, straightforward development of story in clear, dramatic terms and with an unobtrusive, functional style, it sets    itself at odds with traditions of American commercial film-making." Kolker, beneath.

The film is an emblematic study of class struggles and lost roots, the rise to social distinction of an inarticulate Irish ne'er do well, and his subsequent disgrace, fall, and physical collapse. It is intriguing as a narrative on several counts,

1. it depicts a journey in time    and through space in a film in two parts.

2. it chooses the voice-over narrative set against the images.

3. it exploits the evident discrepancies between what you re    hearing and what you're seeing.

In filmic terms it offers the following challenges (among others)

to find a satisfying form for a picaresque narrative over three hours

to demonstrate in images the character of participants.

to find visual metaphors for class rise and fall.

In theme it looks seriously at

the characteristics of a political elite

the aspiration of an arriviste

the ethical conduct of society an the Age of Enlightenment.

It is an adaptation of a lesser known Thackeray novel, one written in an assumed authorial voice that from all evidence in the book cannot be trusted. Kubrick chose instead an omniscient voice (of Michael Hordern). There are many deletions from the novel to promote the universality of the parable. Scenes have been added, Bryan's birthday party and procession paired with his funeral wake and procession. Most importantly Kubrick added another duel scene at the end. Kubrick puts more weight than the book on the marriage and its social consequences. In technical terms, the film may equally be seen as an opportunity to film candlelight, not its faking with electric lights. using the number of candles as an indicator of the social dynamic. It is also another opportunity for Kubrick to exploit his passion for eighteenth century paintings. How carefully the shots are built up, a frozen version of Zoffany and the English Conversation piece. The colours and gestures are all appropriate to the time.

Few dates appears ; on one cheque, 1789, the date of the French Revolution. Michael Klein (Narrative and Discourse in Kubrick's Modern Tragedy), writes, Barry's rise in the world is often signified by a line of motion from the left top the right side of the frame..... The major scenes of Barry's decline are often structured parallel to his rise, with the important distinction that now the line of motion is from the right to the left side of the frame."


The Seduction scene from Barry Lyndon.

Redmond Barry (Ryan O'Neil) is a soldier of fortune turned cardsharp who preys upon the aristocracy at their spas and watering holes. He encounters Lady Lyndon (Marisa    Berenson), married to Rt Hon Reginald Charles Lyndon, travelling    minister to European courts; her chaplain Samuel Runt who looks after their son, the Viscount Bullingdon, a melancholy little boy.


1. the gambling sequence; the development of their relationship.

2. the kiss on the patio.