Brideshead Revisited Released on DVD – Movie Review

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Brideshead Revisited Released on DVD January 13, 2009

Brideshead Revisited, based on Evelyn Waugh’s novel also titled Brideshead Revisited , is a story of love, power, and desire in patrician England during the 1920’s through the 1940s. Featuring a compelling performance by two-time Academy Award® Winner Emma Thompson, Brideshead Revisited arrived on DVD on January 13, 2009 from Miramax Films Home Entertainment.

In Brideshead Revisited, when Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode) an aspiring young artist of modest means begins his studies at Oxford University, he meets a flamboyant fellow student from the British aristocracy, Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw). When Sebastian invites Charles to visit his home, Brideshead, the beauty of the palatial 18th century estate speaks to his inner artists, and he is seduces both by the estate and the Marchmain family. The unhealthy coveting of what he desires but cannot have is the focus of Brideshead Revisited .

First Charles and Sebastian have some sort of dalliance. Brideshead Revisited clearly implies that Charles and Sebastian engage in some level of homosexual activity (although I believe the book left more of this to the reader’s imagination), but Charles is smitten with Julia (Hayley Atwell), Sebastian’s sister, the moment he first sees her. When Sebastian later catches Charles kissing Julia, Sebastian reacts with hurt and jealousy. Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson), the domineering and rigidly devout Catholic matriarch tells Charles he cannot ever marry Julia for reasons of religion. Class differences could be overcome, she notes, but Julia must marry a Catholic.

Charles continues to covet Brideshead and Julia, even after Lady Marchmain sends him away and after Julia marries a man who just wants to possess the things she represents. Sebastian declines into alcoholism, and Charles also weds. Eventually Charles and Julia have an ill-fated affair. However, Julia is led back to her religion by her dying father, and Charles is again sent away – this time by Julia. He “revisits” Brideshead years later when he is in the Army and finds himself unexpectedly called to Brideshead, which has become a military base. He visits the chapel, and almost snuffs out a votive candle, then thinks better of it and walks out in the movie version of Brideshead Revisited , as opposed to the book where he has found faith.

Although Waugh intended the Brideshead Revisited novel to portray “‘the operation of Grace’, that is to say, the unmerited and unilateral act of love by which God continually calls souls to Himself,” (1) the Brideshead Revisited movie appears instead to want to romanticize the “forbidden love” element more and the “grace” element less. The religion of the Marchmain’s is just that – religion – something to run from or drink oneself into oblivion over. Grace did not make an appearance in this Brideshead Revisited .

Brideshead Revisited was filmed in beautiful locations in England, Morocco and Venice, and it features sumptuous costumes and spectacular settings. Much of the acting is excellent from all the cast. However, with all these good points, Brideshead Revisited is a movie about lust, adultery, hedonism, and the overindulgence of the decadent world of British aristocracy as well as the harsh, legalistic demands of religion. It falls far short of the lessons Waugh intended about flawed and imperfect people finding faith, grace and reconciliation

Brideshead Revisited stars Matthew Good (Match Point), Hayley Atwell (The Duchess ), Ben Wishaw (Perfume), Michael Gambon (The Good Shepherd) and two-time Oscar®-winner Emma Thompson (1992 Best Actress, Howard’s End; 1995 Best Adapted Screenplay; Sense and Sensibility).

To read more about the movie and the DVD extras and bonus features, go to Brideshead Revisited on DVD Movie Review


(1) Wikipedia

(2) Brideshead Revisited on DVD Movie Review


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