Out of all the visually-striking films that Stanley Kubrick ever made, none are as classically-beautiful as BARRY LYNDON. The story of an Irish rogue who rises improbably through the ranks of nobility based on his charm, guiles, and rakish ways, the film is lush with breathtaking (and Oscar-winning) cinematography by John Alcott that makes nearly every frame seem like art fit for hanging in a museum alongside work by the likes of John Constable, George Stubbs, William Hogarth, and other 18th century painters.
This, however, as with all things Kubrick, is not a coincidence. The writer/director relied heavily on art from the period to inform his understanding of the time and those who inhabited it, and in several instances transcribed visually that art onto the screen.
But it wasn’t just the visual art of the 18th century in which Kubrick found inspiration. BARRY LYNDON is, of course, based on a novel by William Makepeace Thackery, and this as well as other literary works from the time by writers like Henry Fielding and Samuel Pepys helped fill in the cultural, conversational, and behavioral gaps between what the period’s paintings revealed.
In honor of BARRY LYNDON’s return to cinemas in the UK on the occasion of its 40th anniversary, the British Film Institute has produced the following pair of short videos on the connection between the film and the art and literature that helped to shape it into the most-lauded film (with 4 Oscar wins and 7 total nominations) of Kubrick’s storied career. You probably didn’t need more proof that Kubrick’s perfectionist tendencies were totally worth it, but in case you want it here it is. And after the videos, check out the new, remastered trailer for BARRY LYNDON’s latest theatrical release – it’s nothing short of stunning.