An Irish commoner lies and cheats his way into
European nobility in 18th century England.
Barry Lyndon (1975)
Written and Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Starring Ryan O'Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee,
Leon Vitali, Marie Kean, Hardy Krüger, Murray Melvin,
Godfrey Quigley, Philip Stone, Diana Körner, Steven Berkoff
Based on the novel The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq.
by William Makepeace Thackeray
Oscar Wins - Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction,
Best Costume Design, Best Original Score (Leonard Rosenman)
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Director,
Best Adapted Screenplay
Barry Lyndon is a surprisingly engaging film that follows the path of a young man as he needles his way into the nobility of Europe in the late 1700's. It's the least Kubrickian of all of Stanley Kubrick's film, if that makes sense. It's not an oddball, it isn't shocking. It's simply a story about a man who wanted more than life was willing to let him have. Led by a strong, endearing performance by Ryan O'Neal, Barry Lyndon is one of Kubrick's most cinematic epics and a truly beautiful piece of art.
O'Neal plays Redmond Barry, a young Irishman who falls in love with a girl who is set to marry a wealthy soldier. After being tricked into leaving the country, Barry joins the English army and then deserts, until he's found out and forced to join the Prussian army. From there, he sets his sights on gaining the wealth and noble station that he's always wanted to be a part of. During the film's three-hour runtime, the audience watches Redmond Barry, the loveable rogue, transform into Barry Lyndon, the selfish, sociopathic disease that completely destroys the Lyndon family he marries into. It's a template that is often used in fiction, but not quite often used this well. We understand Barry's need for power and we still see glimpses of the man he used to be, particularly during the death of his son. It's touching and infuriating, and Ryan O'Neal sells every second of it with ease.
Kubrick was known for wanting to do something that nobody had ever done before. With Barry Lyndon, he used natural lighting for almost every scene in an attempt to recreate the look and feel of 1773 England. He definitely succeeded, and the end result is a film that seems intimidating and dull but will absolutely exceed your expectations. As is the case with most of Kubrick's work, Barry Lyndon is nothing less than a great movie.