Monday, August 25, 2008

Brideshead Revisited

This movie was judged to be an unqualified Five Stars by all in our Reel Women group.

Based on Evelyn Waugh's 1945 classic British novel, Brideshead Revisited is a poignant story of forbidden love and the loss of innocence set in England prior to the Second World War.

Young Charles Ryder leaves the home of his emotionally abusive and cruel father and sets out to begin his college education at Oxford. There he meets and befriends Sebastian Flyte, a wealthy, gay aristocrat with a following of fawning friends. Sebastian takes Charles to the family estate, Brideshead, where we are introduced to sister Julia and other family members including mother Lady Marchmain, played by Emma Thompson.

Charles who is an atheist learns the mother is rigidly Catholic and has driven her husband away with her fanaticism (he living in Italy with his new woman), and has caused untold emotional damage to her children, of whom Sebastion and Julia have apparently abandoned their faith, and practice only to please their mother.

The story winds its way through romantic encounters and conflicts, spectacular locations, and unexpected plot twists. Charles first becomes involved with Sebastion, but then is attracted to Julia. This discovery breaks apart the friendship of all three. The contolling mother informs Charles at any rate he cannot have Julia as she can only marry a Catholic. In the ensuing discussion, the mother asks Charles why he thinks he is on the earth. His reply is to enjoy life and be happy. She responds that happiness is not important; the only thing that matters is the hereafter. Not unlike religious fanatics of all persuasions

*Spoilers ahead*

Julia marries an exploitative man who meets her mother's criteria of being Catholic. Charles marries an American girl, but goes to Africa alone for two years to paint. Upon his return, at a showing of his work aboard a ship, he encounters Julia and the two fall into a passionate love affair. They vow to break up their marriages and at last be together. They return to Brideshead where Charles intends to confront Julia's husband and inform him of their plans. It turns out badly as the husband cleverly tricks Charles into "buying" his wife for the price of two paintings. Julia is hurt. As they are leaving they are passed on the road by a car occupied by, among others, Julia's father who has returned home to die. Julia cannot leave.

A priest is summoned and Charles attempts to interfere saying it's not what the father wants. But the father asks Charles why he is in interfering in matters that don't concern him. Charles is confused. He watches the grieving family, including his beloved Julia, kneel in prayer around the bedside as the father receives the last rites, and finally the father acknowledges his sins and accepts the rites to the great joy of all his family.

Julia chooses her Catholicism over her lover, and Charles is left alone. Sebastion slips further into alcoholism and finally goes with his latest lover to Morocco to escape the life at Brideshead. The mother in later years tries with no success to get Sebastion to come home before she dies, even asking Charles to go to him in Morocco on her behalf. She never sees her son again.

Throughout the movie we feel Charles is the good guy with only the best intentions, but one character does slip in a hint of doubt for us. Sebastion's earliest lover encounters Charles at Brideshead and tells him that it wasn't love that drove Charles to seek first Sebastion and then Julia, but a selfish desire for the beautiful Brideshead estate and its wealth of art and sculpture. Charles looks as though he had never considered this, but it might somehow be true.

The friends are all separated never to meet again.

Besides the wonderful and well-acted story, the beautiful location scenes made this movie one of the most enjoyable we've seen. We are 100 percent in agreement, we recommend this movie.

We started the evening at the charming old Lamb's Cafe in downtown Salt Lake. The old-world ambience and excellent food provided a good entre for our British movie.

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