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Barry Lyndon

I've said it once and I'll say it again - Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest directors that ever lived. His career started off with straight-forward narratives (such as The Killing), but Kubrick soon started making some of the atmospheric and contemplative films known to man (such as 2001: A Space Odyssey or A Clockwork Orange). This film, based on the novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, is no exception to Kubrick's greatness and superb talent in filmmaking.

In the film, we follow the roguish, yet lovable, Redmond Barry - an 18th century Irish adventure, particularly his rise and fall in English society. Starting off as a lonely and poverty-stricken boy, Barry's hopes and dreams are only limited to marrying the 'love of his life', Nora Brady. Once an English official steps in for Nora's hand, however, Barry steps up to the plate and challenges the officer to a pistol duel. Seemingly killing the officer, Barry is forced to flee his hometown until matters cool down. The rest of the film follows Barry as he joins various armies, fights in the Seven Years' War, becomes a devious gambler, and slowly climbs the social ladder of 18th century Europe.

This Kubrick at his best, as always, so virtually everything in the film is sheer perfection. The characters are complex and well-written, or adapted, and everything from the script to the performances only enhance the quality of these characters. Barry Lyndon, our leading man, isn't exactly a moral or decisive figure, but he's in touch with the "scoundrels" and "romantic rogues" that the Romanticism movement was absolutely fond of. Whether we're meeting new faces or losing familiar ones, Barry Lyndon's excellence in character is evident even in the supporting cast. It's the perfect film for character-lovers and character actors.

The visuals are, as always, innovative and relishing. The innovation for this film comes from the fact that, aside from a few sequences, the majority of the film was shot using only natural lighting. That's right - virtually everything you see was shot without artificial lighting of any sort. This is especially evident during the candle-lit scenes, which bounce light off of the characters' faces while creating an interesting atmosphere. Even if you ignore the innovation, the film's still a visual spectacle. With Kubrick's signature long takes and tracking shots, he's able to create a film that looks absolutely breathtaking and real. As Richard Schickel stated, the film's "an uncompromising artistic vision".

At first, I didn't know how to feel about the film's narration from an omniscient, but not impartial, narrator. I'm not a big fan of narrators, and Kubrick's film The Killing was hurt by narration, so it took a me a few hours after finishing the film to decide how I felt about it. After some thought, I realized that the film needs the narration just as 2001: A Space Odyssey needed its brilliant classical score. If Barry Lyndon didn't have narration, it'd be feel very empty and would require some big changes to characters' dialogue. Thankfully, the narration is very poetic and reminiscent of Thackeray's style of writing, making it fit the film like a glove.

Despite having a runtime of three hours, I was never bored by this film. It's elegant, stylish, and has a brilliant cast and script. It's slow-moving, yet the film never drags or tries to stretch anything out for more than it's worth.

All in all, Barry Lyndon is a romantic masterpiece. Brilliant characters, fantastic writing, beautiful visuals - I can't stop singing this film's praises. Without a doubt, the film's another Kubrick achievement.



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