Movie Review: Brideshead Unvisited

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
I wish I hadnt even visited Brideshead Revisited. I sat next to an Englishman who had read the novel the film was based on by Evelyn Waugh and who was livid with excitement about how well the film was true to form. But Julian Jarrold's crusty epic certainly doesn't make me want to visit let alone revisit the 1945 novel. I caught the film in Sweden where it is roughly translated as A Lost World. That is a pretty apropos title and I wonder if the marketing agent wasn't having a bit of fun with the twist. For starters everyone seems lost in the film. None of the characters who are devote Catholics can pronounce Latin correctly. Isn't it customary to have a dialect coach on staff? Simple things like 'mea culpa' sound atrocious. This book to film story of a middle class agnostic Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode) who ingratiates himself into the company of a Catholic family is riddled with flaws. He first takes a fancy to a wayward young man at Oxford Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw) with definite homoerotic overtones but later falls for his sister Julia (Hayley Atwell). Then all passion is unleashed on a trip to Venice - of course - while Sebastian sinks further into drug addiction, eventually winding up in an African convent.
Lady Marchmain played by Emma Thompson, the matriarch of the family, is the reason for all the problems of her children and her failed marriage and has been pushing a stoic Catholicism down their throats. It's always the mother's fault. Her former husband is now staying in Venice with his new girlfriend played by Greta Sacchi. Several times in the film it is mentioned about how free the Catholics are in Italy. You have your affairs and fun and then go to confession. The English in this film seem to take Catholicism seriously, piously - the cold northern Europe way.
Charles Ryder for alls his pretense of being fair and insightful seems to have no scruples whatsoever. He is mostly interested in Brideshead from an architectural point of view, adorned with the kind of pompous idolatry that Martin Luther despised. Even the name of this aristocratic property irks me. The head of a bride like a trophy stuffed on a wall. Eventually Charles winds up having the chance to marry a bride from Brideshead's Julia, unhappily coupled with a stereotypical greedy, money hungry American that converted to Catholicism to get her. Ryder was considered unsuitable because of his agnosticism even though he had become a successful artist. The price on Julia's head is a couple of paintings and he agrees. Charles real virtues can be attributed to having a lack of religion which is why he is able to woo Sebastian, Julia and even get the matriarch Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson) to call on him to bring her wayward son home from Africa. The final scene is so embellished with fluff when Lord Marchmain (Michael Gambo) is on his deathbed that I had to restrain from laughing in the otherwise serious audience in Stockholm, Will the father give in and repent by making the sign of the cross? Will Northern European Catholics prevail and put an end to the agnostics and Italian sinners. I can assure you that this report for Movie Magazine gives the film far more color and flavor that Brideshead Revisited deserves.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan , Stockholm, Sweden

More Information:
Brideshead Unvisited
UK - 2008