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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, No. 1, March 1, 1976

"Barry Lyndon"

"Barry Lyndon"

It is not often on the commercial circuit that New Zealand audiences get to see a film of the calibre of "Barry Lyndon". While there may not be such a thing as a perfect film, Kubrick's latest offering excels in all departments of the film art.

This time around, Kubrick takes a fairly lacklustre 19th century Thackeray novel and gives it his 'treatment'. His previous films delved into the futuristic and surrealistic. Not so "Barry Lyndon" which highlights not only his consistency but also his diversity.

The plot of "Barry Lyndon" is not over-strong and consists basically of the adventures of Redmond Barry, an Irish village boy who leaves home after killing (supposedly) an English army officer in a duel. The film traces the small historical accidents that shape the course of Barry's life - his first love, recruitment into the army, his aborted attempt to enter high society. Kubrick highlights that our experiences form our life, and many of these experiences are outside our control and purely accidental.

The character of the film changes constantly. It is full of comical situation, pathetic scenes and ironic incidents. All are handled with the same crafts man like technique and the film rarely becomes boring, despite its great length.

Visually, the film is a marvel, Kubrick uses the beauty of the Irish countryside and the splendor of English and Euopean architecture to build a superb photographic composition. All the tricks of camera art are employed without ever seeming overdone or gimmicky (in contrast to his earlier films). Each shot seemed meticulously planned. Good use of light effects and effective cutting make "Barry Lyndon" a cellulose tapestry.

The acting in the film was generally good. Ryan O'Neal as Barry turns in a competent performance (if you can overcome memories of "Peyton Place" and "Love Story"), even if his accent is suspect at times.

As always, Stanley Kubrick tops off his visuals with effective music. The standard of the music is such that I'm sure that it would be good enough to stand by itself. It not only fitted the film well, but accentuated the impact of the visuals.

On thing is certain. "Barry Lyndon" is Kubrick's trip. It is as if he wanted a weak plot to make the film seem more amazing. The film was too long - the first half alone lasting 105 minutes - taking much of the effect out of the later parts.

In total, one could forget the characters and the plot, but not the sheer sensory brilliance of this classic production.

David Murray