Barry Lyndon and the Limits of Understanding

  • Jana Branch
  • John Izod


BARRY LYNDON and eighteenth-century realismStanley Kubrick's famous obsession with authenticity was well established by the time he began work on Barry Lyndon. Critics and audiences alike anticipated a film that would not simply approximate the eighteenth century but recreate it, from the interior lives of its characters to the landscapes they inhabited. In some ways, Kubrick did not disappoint them; in other ways they were left deeply frustrated. The dividing line? Kubrick's distinctions pointing out what can and cannot be known - and thus reproduced on screen - about the past. What he left shrouded was seen as a failure by some critics and audiences. As much as they were fascinated by Kubrick's sumptuously framed vision of the life of Redmond Barry, they were angered at being shut out of the interiority that audiences have come to expect from a character-driven story. Barry Lyndon can be seen as...