29 November 2011

Brideshead Revisited

I was captivated by Brideshead Revisited mini-series when it first appeared (in the 80s), and waited for every episode.   I also enjoyed it when it was repeated a year or so ago.  Naturally I went to see the movie when it appeared, although I am very selective about which movies I watch as I am not really a "movie" person.  However, I quite liked the movie and when it was on TV at the weekend, I watched it again.
Since there's so much in the Evelyn Waugh story it's inevitable that not everything will fit into a movie of less than 2 hours, especially given that the events span over 20 years.  So the movie of necessity leaves out a great deal of the original story and makes many compromises. In addition, the movie version dramatises the story or, put another way, "sexes it up", although the important theme of the relationship between faith and love is still well portrayed.    At least the movie (thank goodness!) resists the temptation that probably existed to show any "intimate" scenes between Sebastian and Charles - although it does get pretty suggestive! 
Compromises and omissions I can understand, but I do wonder whether some of the departures from Evelyn Waugh's version are really necessary.  Waugh was careful to have Charles state that he was not an atheist, only an agnostic, but the movie stresses his atheism.  The movie has Bridey killed in the blitz, whereas Waugh has him disinherited because Lord Marchmain disapproves of his marriage to Beryl.  And Waugh had Sebastian and Charles travelling third class to Venice without Julia, who wasn't there. But in this respect,  I guess the movie's introduction of an attraction between Charles and Julia while in Venice is a useful prelude to their affair on the crossing from New York (which is certainly in the book).
In its favour, the Brideshead scenes in the movie were shot at Castle Howard, as was the case with the mini-series.  Interestingly, Waugh (in the preface to the 1959 edition of the book) broods that, when the book was written in 1944, it seemed that the ancestral seats were "doomed to decay and spoliation like the monasteries of the 16th century".   Writing in 1959, he said, "Brideshead today would be open to trippers, its treasures rearranged by expert hands and the fabric better maintained than it was by Lord Marchmain".  Fast forward to the present, and (taking the liberty of substituting Castle Howard in Yorkshire for Brideshead, said to be in Wiltshire)  his words have turned out to be self-fulfilling.   Here are some images (obviously not as good as those in the movie or the mini-series!)

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