Sunday, August 24, 2008

Brideshead Revisited

by Pa Rock

I've been without television for over a month now, and, for the most part, I don't miss it. I am starting the process of indexing Rootbound, I am more diligent with Pa Rock's Ramble, and I have begun enjoying movies on the big screen. I do suffer television withdrawal, however, on Sunday nights when I realize that other denizens of this wretched desert are watching Masterpiece Theatre - and I'm not.

Last night as I perused the movie listings for this area, I noticed that a new adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited would be having a single showing this afternoon at only one theatre in this district of Hell. I was excited at the prospect of getting my Masterpiece buzz on. Then, while studying the write-up on the movie, I became even more interested in going when I saw that one of the two male leads was being played by Ben Whishaw, the young man who had starred in Hamlet at the Old Vic in 2004.

I drove to Surprise, AZ, late this afternoon to see this adaptation of the classic novel. The theatre that was hosting it just opened this past May. Before the show started, a fancy usher (probably the vice president in charge of popcorn) walked into our viewing room, stood in a spotlight, and explained that this movie was entirely digital and would provide a beautiful picture with very high resolution.

Okay, so the movie is going to be extra clear - start the show already!

For those not familiar with the story, it takes place in England in the years leading up to World War II. A young artist named Charles Ryder, from fairly ordinary circumstances in Paddington, goes to Oxford to "read history" and paint. One of the first people that he meets is a rather flamboyant "sodomite" who introduces himself by sticking his head in the painter's window and puking on the floor. He is Lord Sebastian Flyte, a son of privilege with serious mother issues.

Matthew Goode is the painter and Ben Whishaw is the Oscar Wilde wannabe. The painter and his very wealthy friend strike up a tepid romance which becomes complicated when the painter also falls in love with his friend's sister, Lady Julia Flyte, portrayed by Hayley Atwell. Emma Thompson is the formidable mother of Sebastian and Julia. She commands the family mansion, Brideshead, and all who tread her hallowed halls. She is Catholic to the core of her being, and forces her religious intolerance onto her children with such severity that it drives them from her.

It is not a happy movie, and it is, in some respects, even more tragic than Hamlet. But it is a story of life and the desires that propel us through it. Brideshead Revisited is a tale of the downfall of decadence and resplendence, a last glimpse of an English lifestyle that was swept aside by the Second World War.

And young Mr. Whishaw slid into the skin of Sebastian Flyte as easily as he did that of the troubled Prince of Denmark. He is a remarkable talent whose star is on the rise.

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