Barry Lyndon

Seeking Authenticity - Barry Lyndon by Geoff Harrison

At the time of it's release in 1975, the Stanley Kubrick film "Barry Lyndon" certainly received a mixed reception.  Most of the complaints revolved around the very slow pace.  According to an article in The Guardian marking the film's 40th anniversary, Woody Allen described watching the film as akin to "going through the Prado without lunch".


Yet the "slow burn" approach allows the emotion to build gradually and also allows an appreciation of the style of the film.  It was Kubrick's intention to emulate 18th Century landscape paintings in the outdoor scenes, with the camera panning backwards.  This technique dwarfs the characters in the carefully composed landscape, though not to the extent of a David Lean movie.


According to The Guardian, actor Ryan O'Neal (who played the title role) decided to stay with the year-long shoot because he had a strong suspicion he was involved in something great.  Clearly money was no object to Kubrick; it took a week to set up an interior scene which he later scrapped.

Speaking of interior scenes, Kubrick strove for authenticity here too by making as much use of candle light as possible, and therefore as little use of artificial light.  Hence the haziness of the night time interior scenes.



It's likely that Barry Lyndon has stood the test of time better than many may have expected, but it's Kubrick's striving for authenticity that has always appealed to me.  And it is so typical of Kubrick that he should produce an epic where the central character is an Irish rogue, and ultimately a loser.