Deep Focus: “Barry Lyndon”

Story posted April 25, 2021 in Arts & Entertainment by Jon Mead.

One of the most impressive films in Stanley Kubrick's already amazing catalogue, “Barry Lyndon” is innovative both technically and visually.

Kubrick, a critically acclaimed director, is known by many for hits such as “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “The Shining,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Full Metal Jacket,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “Lolita” and many more.

Although it may sound corny, many consider Stanley Kubrick one of the greatest film directors of all time as directors such as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Ridley Scott credit him as one of their prime inspirations in film.

Critics and reviewers alike have described “There Will Be Blood”- another amazing movie starring Daniel Day Lewis and a highly recommended watch- as a homage to Kubrick.

Like many directors before and after him he takes a place among the many auteurs in the world of cinema-Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, Charlie Chaplin, etc.- as he was known for his authoritarian control and distinct style.

Kubrick was of very few directors that understood the visual translation of literary works to film- prime examples being “The Shining,” “A Clockwork Orange” and.... “Barry Lyndon”

Based on the 1844 novel “The Luck of Barry Lyndon,” written by William Makepeace Thackeray, this is probably one of Kubrick’s lesser-known works, but on first watch was absolutely astonishing.

It tells the tale of the exploits of Redmond Lyndon, and his rise to the English aristocracy through his marriage with a wealthy widow.

Something to point out about this story, is that it may look like a normal 18th century period piece, but it's really like no other in that it shows warts and all with its rogue and opportunistic characters, taking any chance they can get to foil each other.

The depictions of life in the 1700s are also very impressive. The traditional pistol duels described in books, were brought to life amazingly with the amount of attention detail- the tension is overwhelming.

One thing the director is known for are the memorable soundtracks he includes in each of his movies. With classic works of Austrian composer Franz Schubert included, it's not only pleasant, but useful in the making of the atmosphere.

The scenery, the trees swaying in the wind and the infinite landscapes, are absolutely breathtaking, completely contrasting the more gruesome, realistic and tragic points of the plot.

Traditional English aristocrats are often portrayed as clean, perfect and gorgeous people but in “Barry Lyndon” this is contrasted with the ugliness of greed, selfishness and hatred shown in each character.

It just goes to show how unsurprising it is how Barry, originally a humble and admirable Irishman, becomes the same thing, as he’s slowly shaped and warped by his environment.

On a more technical note, this work is also known for its innovations in cinematography. The entire project was filmed in natural light, with lack of any kind of electrical light. Although today, viewers would look at this without even blinking an eye, this was an incredibly difficult task.

Kubrick actually obtained 50 mm super-fast lenses (uncommonly used) in order to capture that pre-electric candle-lit glow of colonial times.

If you’re looking for something new to watch, or are looking to expand your taste in movies, this is it.

Jon Mead is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email

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