Returning to Brideshead
I remember so well watching the BBC production of “Brideshead Revisited” and loving it. I, therefore, was not real anxious to see this new production. I had also loved Evelyn Waugh’s book—there is something about England of that period that is so beautifully romantic.
As for the new film, I loved it too. It wasn’t the original and it was condensed but I enjoyed it.
The film showed how Catholicism creates problems when forced on children by parents and how the religion imposes itself. Another aspect that was changed from both the original and the book is the relationship between Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte, the heroes. In this film version the two were lovers whereas in the book and the BBC series they were just platonic friends.
The importance of religion in this version cannot be played down. We see the way the characters are affected by religion and why they seem so opposed to it. When something is forced, especially religion, it is only natural that rebellion follows in many cases. However as we see here, when the need arises, many will return because they realize that the belief in G-d is a necessity. The book can be interpreted as Waugh’s own journey to converting to Catholism and his own journey in turn represents what others do as thet find G-d and thereby eliminate sin from their lives. The film looks at Charles Ryder and if he has the ability to change.
Of course due to the nature of the relationship between Charles and Sebastian, this film could not possibly fall into the category of a religious film knowing the church’s stand on same-sex love. And there are scenes of infidelities as well.
Some say that this is not “Brideshead Revisited” but rather a compacted version of the plot of the book with a more homosexual bend to it. (Something like “Brokeback Revisited” perhaps?) Of course not everything from the book nor the miniseries is there due to time constraints. Does that cause this not to be a good movie? Of course, not—regardless of what others may think, I feel that this is a good movie; perhaps it is not “Brideshead Revisited” as far as purists go but it has many good things going for it. The performances, while not great, are quite good. The men are good looking and the women are aristocratic but something seems to be missing. There is a touch of mystery in the film as well and we are not exactly sure what some of the intentions of some of the characters are.
The film is somewhat truncated but changed in some acceptable ways. We hurt for Charles and Sebastian in the original and we do the same here. Now, however, I am older and wiser so my pain is different.
Emma Thompson as Lady Marchman is brilliant and we have seen too little of her lately. She has the ability to dominate the film even though she is only on screen for about ten minutes. If you saw the miniseries, there is plenty here you may not like but for a “Brideshead” virgin, this film is just fine. What is most amazing is that the film tells the story in a little over two hours while the miniseries used thirteen hours to do so.
The story is still interesting, beautifully filmed with an adequate cast. It’s not a great movie but neither is it as bad as some have said.