Talking Movies: Revisiting Brideshead Revisited

I really liked it — it’s the new film adaptation of Evelyn Waugh‘s literary classic Brideshead Revisited, which is in theaters now. Most people remember the work as a hugely popular 1981 tv mini-series; this film won’t eclipse that magnum opus, but it stands alone as a fine work. It’s proof that the good old fashion staple of British cinema – the period drama – still has great vitality.

Earlier this week I sat down at Village restaurant in Greenwich Village to talk to Matthew Goode and Hayley Atwell – two of the film’s key actors. The director, Julian Jarrold, was there too.

For those of you who don’t know…..the film is based on Evelyn Waugh’s celebrated novel published in 1945. It’s set in pre-World War II England, and it tells the story of a young middle class man who becomes entranced by the offspring – the brother and sister – of an upper class British family. The story takes place in the days when the old aristocratic order in Britain was coming to an end.

The film differs from the novel in several ways, but the spirit of the book survives. The nature of the relationship between the central character, Charles, played by Goode, and Sebastian, portrayed by Ben Whishaw, is presented as more overtly sexual (at least from Sebastian’s point of view). Variety film critic Dennis Harvey has written that the film offers the closest thing to a gay love story in mainstream cinema since Brokeback Mountain.

As in the book, there’s a strong religious theme in the film – Emma Thompson plays the matriarch Lady Marchmain, a devout Catholic. The film can be interpreted as a critique of religious fundamentalism, perhaps more so than in the book. Director Julian Jarrold sees it as a story of religious fundamentalism working in tandem with oppressive parenting.

Anyway, it’s a good film. The production values are strong — so is the acting — and it has some very compelling themes.

Matthew Goode seems to be a rising star after well-received turns in Match Point and The Lookout; he’s also playing the leading role in the forthcoming comic book adaptation Watchmen.

Hayley Atwell, was, well, very English and very charming. I was left with the impression that she’s going to go a long way in the acting business — and she had a lot of very thoughtful observations on the film.

My interview with Matthew Goode.

My interview with Hayley Atwell.

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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