Movie Review – Barry Lyndon

Posted: May 26, 2013 in Movie Reviews
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Barry Lyndon is not the type of film that I expected from the poster. This film poster is by far the best of all the Kubrick’s films posters but I can’t say that about the movie. Of all the Kubrick movies that I’ve watched if you’d ask me which one I’d watch last I’d place this. Taking no credits away from Kubrick this movie too is an excellent period flick but it just didn’t work with me, not enough.


This movie which Kubrick has said to have been inspired from paintings. He’s true to the portraits because the whole film looks like one. We can take any scene from the movie, cut it and make it a wallpaper. Add to that the pitch perfect English, the dignity the actors maintain, the pride of the Englishmen, their dressing, their mannerisms were all so well etched. Only a genius like Kubrick could do.

Kubrick never hurries for a movie. For his eyes wide he shot for 400 days without break and that’s a record. Here too he has given so much importance to details, for the principal photography alone he took 300 days. As a tribute to the paintings there is a scene where Lyndon and his fellowmen watch paintings and if you watch clearly there is a sarcastic charm in the scene. Lyndon exclaims for a picture to be good. No one gives any reaction. Does Lyndon really know what’s there in the painting? Why it’s considered awesome? Question mark, a traditional Kubrician way of making films.

As a photographer basically Kubrick does the camera work exemplarily well. There is a scene where Lyndon as a soldier walks right to the enemies in spite of them shooting their rounds. It was an excellently shot scene. After every straight shot Kubrick keeps the camera near the edge of the knives attached to the gun. Every time a camera is held a basic distance is kept between camera and the subject, here too it happens. But right when we start to appreciate the camera work it becomes even more awesome when a knife comes in between the camera and the subject i.e. the row of knives.

Yet another scene was also made in the same fashion. Lyndon along with his fellow men stay in a trench. The camera focuses from the hole. A gun with knife comes right through it as if piercing from the camera and gets into the hole. Only after that he shows Lyndon there. Only Kubrick could do it.

He uses hand held camera effectively in a scene where Lyndon’s wife takes poison after his child’s death. The trauma she suffers couldn’t have been shown better. The hand held camera and the some special lens used there shows that instant eeriness which makes us get hooked to the scene. We sense the grief immediately. If that was not enough the whole film was made with natural lighting, can you believe that? It’s not that easy a task. That too for a period flick. Kubrick challenges himself and betters himself in every film of his.

He doesn’t leave the slow Mo shot too. He uses it efficiently to picturize the fall of Lyndons son from Horse. I don’t know how he achieved such shot without the use of CG. I’m still not sure how far the shot is true. If it’s cent percent true. Hats off.

The whole film is a character study. Those who like psychological films would connect with it better. When you think deep has ever a character like Lyndon been a protagonist in the movie. The protagonists generally are people who are too sure about themselves. Either in a positive way or negative way. Even if a director attempts to take a normal persons tale by the end of the film we start thinking that he’s someway special. Have directors ever taken a film with the subjects like us. The normal people. Many things happen around us. Many see us on our way home but do any of them remember us? The answer is no. Because we are people who are like the rest of us we see every evening. Who knows we might see the very same person but wouldn’t have noticed them? Who knows the colleagues we are working with could have met us or walked past us some time in the past.

Barry Lyndon is one of that type who would have been fairly noticed. Even if noticed he doesn’t know to make use of the situation. He has to be seduced by his cousin even though he likes her, he gets to have wealth, he gets to be in the army, he gets to shoot his cousins lover but fails miserably in each of his deeds. He is such a loser with whom we don’t sympathize but get irritated. One scene which highlights this is the robbery scene where he continues to lift his hand even after going past the robbers. They make him to put his hand down. Otherwise who knows he’d have had his hands up till he reached his destination.

In a picture with a protagonist like Lyndon the film didn’t have much scope for romance but Kubrick, the master he is whenever he gets the opportunity he makes full use of it. The first scene were Barry’s cousin asks him to take the cloth she hides is sheer pleasure to watch. It is as sensual a scene can get that too with her head out of the frame. Brilliant. There is another sex scene where Lyndon seems to be enjoying with a couple of ladies, the camera pans out and it looks as if a the scene happens from the portrait, as if life is given to a portrait.

Kubrick here tries to make this type of film here. In spite of watching the three hour long movie we still don’t connect with Lyndon. For me he seemed a normal guy in abnormal situation. Not in a Forrest Gump kind of way. He fails miserably in everything he does. On any other day, in any other movie we’d have sympathized him but here we don’t. Why? That’s Lyndon. In fact we get irritated of his naivety. That’s the power of the character which is brilliantly portrayed by Ryan O’Neal. He has some queer quality but it could have been brought out only like a master like genius.

And what a way to end the movie with Barry Lyndon getting into the cart. He cuts and freezes the scene right at the moment where Lyndon stays without any support indeed signifying his hopeless future in that shot. The voiceover doesn’t fail this time too to step in and say that he gambles but without much luck. I would have loved if the movie had got over then. Nevertheless his wife signing the check with a moment of silence too was good.

Having said all this, the movie still didn’t impress me much. Why? I can’t point out the errors. Some movies just don’t work. This is one such movie. May be that’s intentional too. But for those who’ve not watched the movie I recommend you to watch it in empty theatres if it doesn’t happen watch it alone in a dark room with no disturbance at all. This movie is more like a mood piece. Might work for you.


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