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Brideshead Revisited [DVD] 
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Privilege. Ambition. Desire. At Brideshead Everything Comes at a Price.A heartbreaking romantic epic, this adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel tells an evocative story of forbidden love and the loss of innocence. Oxford 1925. The unworldly undergraduate Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode) is befriended by the flamboyant and aristocratic Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw), son of Lord and Lady Marchmain (Michael Gambon and Academy Award-Winner Emma Thompson), and is thrilled by an invitation to Brideshead, the Marchmain’s magnificent ancestral home. Beguiled by his surroundings, Charles is entranced by the opulent house and the glamourous world of this eccentric family. While Lord Marchmain lives in Venice with his mistress, Lady Marchmain runs the house, the failure of her marriage redoubling the fierce Catholic faith imposed on her children – Sebastian and the beautiful Julia (Hayley Atwell). As Charles’s infatuation moves from the provocative Sebastian to the sophisticated Julia, it is a faith with which he finds himself increasingly at odds…
It’s always a danger to go back and offer a fresh take on a classic text that’s already made the transition to television so well. In the case of Brideshead Revisited, the 1981 miniseries has become so revered that it’s understandable few have been tempted to tackle it since. Enter, however, writers Andrew Davies and Jeremy Brock, who have taken Evelyn Waugh’s novel, and created a television movie worth considering.
Set in 1925, the story of Brideshead Revisited doesn’t easily fit into a feature running time, but the end result still works well. The life of the Marchmain family, under the ultra-critical eye of Lady Marchmain (played by the excellent, as always, Emma Thompson, in a quite small role) throws together romance, religion and a handy dose of obsession too, as outsider Charles Ryder gets invited to the Brideshead estate by Sebastian Flyte. Inevitably, the pace of the production is a little too quick at times, and following all of the characters takes some work. Yet this is a solid piece of period drama.
What it isn’t is a rival for the original miniseries, and perhaps that’s why this take on Brideshead Revisited went down the television movie route instead. The consequence is that it does feel a little cramped, and while the production values are good, a bit more breathing room in the running time wouldn’t have hurt. Still, as it stands this is a perfectly fine take on the novel, even if it never has pretensions to be the definitive one. --Jon Foster
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Top Customer Reviews
Mathew Goode is a solid Charles Ryder, but this version makes him a much more ambiguous character than the star-struck observer we are familiar with from the book and famous television production of 1981. Waugh's Charles is dazzled by Sebastian, his family and by Brideshead itself in a rather pure, selfless way, except possibly towards the very end of the book when age and cynicism are getting the better of him. In Julian Jarrold's film however, its hinted pretty early on that his motivations may be murky - does he tolerate and manipulate Sebastian and Julia simply to gain a proprietorial foothold over Brideshead itself? This is kept enigmatic, but it nevertheless seems like an unnecessary cheapening of Charles' character.
The relationship between Charles, Sebastian and Julia is also misconceived, fashioned as a romantic triangle with Sebastian's rejection by Charles given as the prime reason behind his descent into depression and alcoholism. This departs significantly from the book, where Charles and Julia do not get romantically involved until many years after his rejection by Sebastian.
All of this particularly compromises the character of Sebastian himself. In the book and the TV series he is a dazzlingly beautiful, glamorous and charismatic sprite who Charles never fails to be captivated by, and his decline is more one of spirit and the burdens of his family than of something as feeble as a romantic slight.Read more ›
Mortimer could not share or even sympathise with Waugh's religious convictions. Nonetheless, appreciating that Waugh's faith was woven into every strand of the novel, he was most diligent in ensuring that it was also seen to be at the very heart of the story of the TV series. This filmed version, in contrast, is a very loose adaptation of the novel. The plot has been drastically - I might say surgically- altered by the scriptwriter. Whilst I appreciate that it is not possible to squeeze the plot of a complete novel into a two hour film the changes that have been made here are drastic and destructive.
I came to this film expecting to find an accurate, albeit condensed, version of the story of the novel. If only I had been right! The love affair between Charles and Sebastian is cut out completely; Julia is written in to scene after scene in which her character is completely absent in the novel and Waugh's religious message is turned completely on its head. Waugh, to put it simply, saw God as the good guy. The scriptwriter of the film sees God as the bad guy- the true villain of the piece.
This is a perfectly legitimate point of view to hold but if he wished to convey this why did he not I wonder adapt another novel that held to that notion? Why ruin this one? Sterling performances by the cast and a beautiful background for filming (Castle Howard - the same great house that was used as Brideshead in the TV series) cannot redeem this film. I wish I could award it no stars at all or five stars in the negative. Do not buy - or even rent- this film.
Basically, dont waste time and money on this rubbish: watch the brilliant granada series - a dazzling, masterful adaption of the book.
When the Producer Derek Granger also added, 'those days are gone', he wasn't referring to Waugh's landscape and characters but the art of film making.
The 2008 production could never conjure up the alchemy of 1981. And it has since been proved that high production values, which drown this film, do not equal art. In 1981 a one-off was created. Something unrepeatable.
If the mini series told us anything, it was that this novel needed to be adapted in full, with Waugh's voice at the forefront ....and that would take time. The investment Granada made in the attention to detail paid off. Audiences were prepared to watch a 13 hour story evolve.
My hope is that viewers of this film, new to Waugh and Brideshead, will get a flavour of this great story and with any luck seek out the 13 hour experience - which still shimmers unrivaled after 30 years - in another league.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An abridged version, of what was an excellent series, but well worth seeing.Published 6 months ago by MR VICTOR G KINGDOM
I wasn't expecting much after seeing the brilliant TV series but this adaptation is awful. Ben Whishaw as Sebastian is totally miscast and shows none of Sebastian's vunerability... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Gardenia
I enjoyed this version of the story.
There was a great deal of the original text in this version.
Any film adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's classic novel Brideshead Revisited must inevitably be compared with the sumptuous, highly-regarded, if overlong, Granada Television version 0f... Read morePublished 14 months ago by M. J. Nelson