I have read Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel twice, but it was never a favourite. I think some of the meaning went over my head and also there’s a significant amount of Catholicism in the book, which was not exactly my cup of tea. However, the novel translates very well to the screen. Seeing the film has made the story clearer to me and has brought the characters to life. The film is directed by Julian Jarrold, who must really love the story because he also directed the 1981 TV series!
There are many good aspects to this film and I found it very watchable, if a little too long. I think it follows the book quite closely, with the homosexuality theme more pronounced. The story is in the form of a flashback, with the protagonist Charles Ryder revisiting the stately home Brideshead as a military base for the Second World War and remembering his involvement with the aristocratic owners of the house in the 1920s. He met the eccentric Sebastian Flyte while studying at Oxford and then fell in love with Sebastian’s sister Julia. Charles is caught between brother and sister, while their mother tries to control their lives using religion.
The scenes and costumes are gorgeous. Filmed at the magnificent Castle Howard (Yorkshire), Oxford, Venice and Marrakesh, you could actually watch this just for the locations and never mind the story. I loved the acting from Matthew Goode as Charles Ryder, Ben Whishaw as Sebastian Flyte and Emma Thompson as Lady Marchmain. I was relieved that Sebastian’s habit of carrying his teddy bear everywhere was not too much emphasised, although it’s probably one of the main things people remember about his character.
Brideshead Revisited is a film about privilege, faith, loss… and the brief summer of youth, before the bitterness sets in.