Following the collapse of his long-gestating Napoleon project, Stanley Kubrick turned to this lesser-known novel by the author of Vanity Fair, set at the time of the Seven Years War. Famed for his perfectionism, Kubrick went to extraordinary lengths to research and recreate the look of the period, taking inspiration from the era’s great visual stylists, painters such as Thomas Gainsborough and William Hogarth.
Determined to film by natural or historically accurate light sources, Kubrick and his cinematographer John Alcott acquired super-fast lenses to capture scenes lit only by candles. The pristine, painterly look of the finished film was decried by some critics, who found the amoral escapades of the title character (Ryan O’Neal) emotionally uninvolving. Barry Lyndon’s reputation has soared in the years since.
“Sublime and elusive, Barry Lyndon is Kubrick’s most sad, mysterious and misleading work – flickering like the candlelight by which some of it was famously lit.” Elena Smolina
“Mournful, funny and exquisitely beautiful, the film that puts the lie to the notion of Kubrick being cold and unfeeling.” Sean Hogan
“In Kubrick’s opulent presentation, Thackeray’s opportunist is not only a still-living caricature of many of us, but also, above all, a merciless image of a society based on innate and hereditary superiority.” Michal Kriz
“The most beautiful film about the triumph of human ambition and then its decadence, made by cinema’s mightiest hermit.” Michel Lipkes