Barry Lyndon (1975)

“By What Means Redmond Barry Acquired the Style and Title of Barry Lyndon.”

Not to say that I wasn’t looking forward to this movie, but because I knew it was pretty much a movie covering one man’s life and because Kubrick loves 3 hour long run times, I was…hesitant. I knew it was going to be good though and if you are studying Kubrick, you can’t skip out on Barry Lyndon. Once again, Kubrick conveys that film is art in this film. Even the picture above looks like an old painting from the 1700’s. The set design is truly amazing, deserving of those Ocars for Art Direction and Costume Design. Much deeper than how pretty it looks though, Barry Lyndon has vibrant life in these paintings. 

In this film we see both the rise and the fall of Barry Lyndon. He is both the hero and the bad guy. Both likable and despicable. Played by Ryan O’Neal, Barry Lyndon is first shown to us as a young, naive man. Foolishly in love, he lets his actions become dominated by that fact. Forced to flee town, on his way he is robbed by a famous highwaymen of all the money he possessed. In the beginning, we have sympathy for Barry. But as time goes on and Barry grows older, he becomes his own downfall. We no longer have sympathy for him; he has become his own protagonist.

You don’t even really feel the three hour run time. At least, not like it felt in 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which Every. Single. Thing. Moved. So. Slowly. It was done beautifully in that movie, but for Barry Lyndon we become engrossed in this man’s life and we want to see him grow. The length of the movie might even be one of it’s strength, for we have time to form a special relationship with Barry. In a type of film that follows the journeys and life of one man, this is obviously a very important aspect.

Kubrick has been known to be obsessive over the little details of his films. This is understandable, as any artist is going to be particular about their artwork. And that is truly what Kubrick is. He shows it in every single scene. This film was not so much concerned with being as abstract as Kubrick’s other films, but instead injecting emotion and beauty in every shot. This is what is unique to Barry Lyndon, there isn’t any huge mystery behind it and it isn’t surrounded by a number of symbols that are up for interpretation. It is simply a portrayal of a man’s life, although it does have many messages, none of them are as masked as say 2001, A Clockwork Orange, or as I’ll talk about later,  Eyes Wide Shut. It’s truly a remarkable piece of work, and this is noticeable in every aspect of the movie, whether it be the acting, set design, costumes, or the score. They work together flawlessly to create a single masterpiece.

Out of all of the films that I have seen that take place during the 18th century, this one definitely takes the cake. Every still from this movie looks like it could be an oil painting that from that time period, which is very impressive. Kubrick shows off in every movie that he made that he wasn’t just a filmmaker, but an innovator. It’s no question that this movie is aesthetically pleasing, but the story is great as well. Though I have heard that it is dull and boring, it was quite the opposite to me. I wanted to know what was to become of Barry and he definitely did not have a dull life. As the viewer, we even get some sense of being omniscient over Barry and the other characters. Due to there being a narrator of the story, we get the sense that we know things that Barry doesn’t, that he is doomed to be “poor, lonely, and childless”. This is an aspect that makes everything a little more interesting

So, although I was kind of scared to start watching this film, in fear of there being a Kubrick film that I did not enjoy, I have to say I was wrong. Don’t let the run time, or the story, scare you away from this masterpiece. It’s truly a piece of art. To some it may seem “dull”, but really this is a film that you need to set aside time and your presence of mind in order to truly give it the appreciation that it deserves.

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3 thoughts on “Barry Lyndon (1975)

  1. This is one I’ve never got round to seeing. I think the period setting has always put me off – but I hear great things, especially about the cinematography, and your review has convinced me to check it out, especially as you seemed hesitant at the start too!

    • Yeah I was definitely iffy about the period setting as well and this wasn’t necessarily a movie I was looking forward to watching. I’m glad I did though. Especially if you’re into Kubrick, it’s a good one! I will admit that you definitely feel the length of the film, but don’t let that scare you 😉

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