The movie changes things from the start; the first person narrative, ironic in the novel and designed to make you sympathize with Barry, is removed. This is the story of Barry Lyndon (Ryan O'Neal), a man who ascends to social prominence in the 2nd half of the 18th century by means of dishonesty and dastardly deeds before losing it all through even worse behavior. Unlike the novel, in which Barry is a relatively engaging character, Ryan O'Neal's performance (probably in accordance with Kubrick's script) is perfectly enigmatic; we never ever see inside of him. This is not satire anymore; this is a tale of morality (so some say the story is about Barry's downfall because of society's rules; I'm right, do you hear me? I'M RIGHT!).
Along with Eyes Wide Shut, Barry Lyndon was one of Kubrick's few financial failures. It was made after the huge disappointment, for Kubrick, of not being able to make his Napoleon film, which would have been hugely expensive. As a result, it shouldn't surprise us that, as is frequent in Kubrick, there are some heated (anti-)war scenes. Just think of it as a compensation period drama, though Kubrick always held hope that he would make his Napoleon film.
Barry Lyndon is perhaps best remembered for its gorgeous cinematography by Kubrick co-conspirator John Alcott. Kubrick resolved, in accordance with the movie's 18th century setting, to shoot in natural light only. The movie is carefully composed, and all the other tech credits are top notch. All this artifice, of course, is part of the plot; however, for many people, the question is whether or not it overshadows the dramatic achievements of the movie. Certainly it doesn't tell a particularly original story; however, the style is steady and absorbing (even if a duel scene in the second half is excruciatingly paced). The question divides people evenly; nobody, however, can deny the overall genius of the film's writer-producer-director, nor the visual splendor of the film. Mandatory viewing for anyone even remotely interested in either Kubrick or cinematography.
What do you think of Barry Lyndon
Share your opinions on our forum