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This review is from: Brideshead Revisited [DVD]  (DVD)
There is plenty here to infuriate Brideshead fans, a group of which I count myself a member. And yet I don't begrudge the two hours I spent watching this DVD last night. On reflection, I enjoyed spotting as many of the deviations from the novel as I could. And I spotted an homage to 'Don't Look Now' in one of the nocturnal canal scenes in Venice, so I wonder if there are others.
As others have noted, the biggest sin committed by this screenplay is the role of Julia. In the novel, Sebastian goes downhill as a by-product of the pernicious cycle of his increased drinking and escapism causing his mother to track his movements more intensely, which leads to more drinking etc. In this movie, Julia goes to Venice with Charles and Sebastian -- I don't recall that in the novel -- and it is Sebastian catching a snatched kiss between Charles and Julia which drives him to solitude and heavier drinking. In the novel Julia doesn't become the 'love of Charles's life' until his marriage to Celia deteriorates; this movie suggests that Charles knows she is the one as soon as he lights a cigarette for her in the car journey from the station.
So many great cameo performances from the TV series have been omitted from this movie. Anthony Blanche barely gets a look-in, disabled German Kurt gets 10 seconds, and the fellow student that John Gielgud pretended was an American at dinner -- definitely the funniest moment of the TV series and audio CD -- has vanished.
You must, must, must buy the TV series DVD first, before this. This is the remixed pop video version -- equally sumptuous, but with the plot very changed and abridged. I would also recommend the audio CD narrated by Jeremy Irons -- he does the voices, particularly of Charles's father -- so well.