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Barry Lyndon
09-09-2010, 03:29 PM
Post: #1
Barry Lyndon
That's the best thing I could come up with. I only saw the film once, but recently, and now, the more I watch Kubrick's other movies and read these analysis, the more I'm starting to realize what's going on in Barry Lyndon. First of all, Bullingdon is a parallel of Danny Torrance, evidenced by everything from his being abused by his father to his hairstyle. Bullingdon pretty much shares the exact same traits as Danny, and, if you notice, tries to kill his father towards the end, which is also similar to The Shining. I've also noticed that there's a possibility of connection between Bullingdon and Alex Delarge, for the same hairstyle and for other similar things such as being abused. Bullingdon also seems a parallel of Barry, simply because Barry got in a duel at the beginning of the film which parallels Bullingdon's duel at the end, although I'm not sure of any other significant details.

I'm also starting to notice some more symbolism. One in particular during the ending duel scene (sorry if the image is big, it's the only one I could find):

[Image: BARRY+LYNDON+12A%28CY%29.jpg]

I notice two things in this shot: The pyramid symbol as well as the two cross symbols beneath. I really wonder the significance of this shot.

I've already noted in the FMJ thread about the film's possible relations to Full Metal Jacket:

-Barry was, at one point in the film a soldier.

-while he was a soldier, he engaged in a fist fight between an older, chubbier man, which mirrors a scene in which someone fights Pyle with big Q-tips (I have no clue what those are called)

-during the same scene, the two fighters are surrounded by red tires, which vaguely resembles the red coats worn by the soldiers surrounding the two fighters.

-Also, the FMJ soldiers are gathered around the red tires, making it very similar to BL's scene.

I'd like to hear any other observations on the film, if there are any. I'd like to point out that Barry Lyndon feels like a road map for Kubrick's other movies. This is the only film in which it literally shows the father abusing the son, and also the only film which directly explains the son trying to kill the father. That's really all I have for now. Any thing to say about the film or the themes of the film?


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09-10-2010, 02:20 AM
Post: #2
RE: Barry Lyndon
It's called an Oedipus Complex, in which the son kills (or symbolically does) the (symbolic) father.
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09-10-2010, 06:13 AM
Post: #3
RE: Barry Lyndon
(09-10-2010 02:20 AM)wannabe Wrote:  It's called an Oedipus Complex, in which the son kills (or symbolically does) the (symbolic) father.

Thanks, but I already knew that. I've read the play (Oedipus Rex), and I generally don't like it, and I also think that "Oedipus Complex" is a kind of annoying name, because people use it for different meanings, either for the one you mentioned, or including the mom like in the play. Still, you're right. It seems that both Danny and Bullingdon have an "Oedipus Complex". I'd like to know if/where it fits into ACO, because it's quite possible that Alex is a parallel for Bullingdon and Danny as well.


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09-10-2010, 11:55 PM
Post: #4
RE: Barry Lyndon
I've only watched Barry Lyndon twice all the way through. Parallels between paintings and reality I suspect is a theme - like in Eyes Wide Shut. There seems to be something going on with the number of candles being used in certain scenes. I've no doubt there are things going on in the card games, as I read in a biography that Kubrick spent two days shooting a single close up of someone's hands as they made a move. There's a parallel between Barry's wife in the bath tub and her crippled father. Bullingdon and his younger brother holding hands seems to parallel the twins of The Shining (the younger wearing oversized shoes). There was more, but that's all I can remember off the top of my head.
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09-11-2010, 04:35 AM
Post: #5
RE: Barry Lyndon
(09-10-2010 11:55 PM)robag Wrote:  I've only watched Barry Lyndon twice all the way through. Parallels between paintings and reality I suspect is a theme

Yes, I heard in a documentary that he wanted very much to mimic the paintings during the period taking place in the film.
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09-11-2010, 02:12 PM (This post was last modified: 09-11-2010 02:21 PM by Bassbait.)
Post: #6
RE: Barry Lyndon
I suspect the film of being really in depth, just like his other work. Reading the production notes of Wikipedia (for laziness to look up more detailed articles), it says that he was so secretive about the production that he only told the lead actress "that it was to be an 18th-century costume piece [and] she was instructed to keep out of the sun in the months before production, to achieve the period-specific pallor he required."

Of course, Kubrick has always been secretive about things, but the fact that this film is no exception makes it quite apparent that there's no exception on the thematic and allegorical elements of his work here.

I also imagine that the scenes with candlelight are REALLY important, because he created a special camera using NASA lenses, which supposedly makes the lens aperture the largest used in film ever. I also read that he patented this design, and nobody has since made a film using it.

Also, here's a great quote that might have something to do with the film's themes (and, incidentally, The Shining's themes as well?) It talks about how he used lights shone through to give an all natural feel, and here's the quote:

"One telltale sign of this method occurs in the scene where Barry duels Lord Bullingdon. Though it appears to be lit entirely with natural light, one can see that the light coming in through the cross-shaped windows in the barn appears blue in color, while the main lighting of the scene coming in from the side is not."

It explains that this is a mechanical error, and that the film stock made the side light look blue. EIther way, Kubrick kept it in the film, so it's pretty obvious that he had a use for that. (see the picture I posted at the top if you want to see what I'm talking about).

Another important quote for any themes might be this one from Kubrick himself:

"I believe Thackeray used Redmond Barry to tell his own story in a deliberately distorted way because it made it more interesting. Instead of the omniscient author, Thackeray used the imperfect observer, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say the dishonest observer, thus allowing the reader to judge for himself, with little difficulty, the probable truth in Redmond Barry's view of his life. This technique worked extremely well in the novel but, of course, in a film you have objective reality in front of you all of the time, so the effect of Thackeray's first-person story-teller could not be repeated on the screen. It might have worked as comedy by the juxtaposition of Barry's version of the truth with the reality on the screen, but I don't think that Barry Lyndon should have been done as a comedy."

Considering that all of Kubrick's other narrators are downright liars in many parts, and considering that the truth is always distorted in his films, this seems like a weird quote, and perhaps he is lying straight to us? I don't know. Just a thought.

Kubrick also ended the film short of the novel's end, and increased the amount of time spent on "The period constituting his escape from the Prussian army to his marriage" (paraphrase)

My favorite quote from the page is this, though:

"Kubrick also changed the plot. The novel does not include a final duel. By adding this episode, Kubrick establishes dueling as the film's central motif: the film begins with a duel where Barry's father is shot dead, and duels recur throughout the film."

So the concept of 2 occurs throughout this film a lot, similar to The Shining. Anyways, that's all I can add right now. I think that this is the next Kubrick movie Rob should review, because it seems more important than Kubrick's earlier films, although maybe Dr. Strangelove has some really important Kubrick elements, considering that was Kubrick's big breakthrough as a director, in which he started to establish all of the things that his later films would elaborate on, including problems with machines (HAL, the doomsday machine), symbolic set design (the set of the war room, for example, although I'm not sure what exactly the symbolism is, I'm just guessing), multiple people being the same person (Peter Sellers plays three characters, which is similar to one character being portrayed by 3 different people, as with 2001), hierarchy issues (the government/military, which was expanded in 2001 and FMJ, and even The Shining?), and the objectification of women (shown in Miss Scott, which was then followed up in ACO and FMJ, as well as a slightly less amount in The Shining).

I guess I'm getting ahead of myself. I can't wait to read about Dr. Strangelove and Barry Lyndon!

EDIT: Is it possible that Kubrick had multiple roles for Sellers for more than comedic reasons? Perhaps the three characters he portrays have parallels? He was initially supposed to play Major Kong, so it's quite possible that Major Kong has a parallel to Sellers's characters, although Kubrick was known to edit the films a lot throughout their production, so it's quite possible that Kong would be phased out of the parallels.

One significant thing I see about Sellers's characters is that they are all from different countries, and, more importantly, all of them are from specific countries that had a big role in WW2: America, Britain, and Germany. Russia had a big role too, but Russia is not portrayed by specifically Sellers. Perhaps there is significance in Sellers's roles, and any possibility of parallels to WW2?

Oh, and one last thing: Sexuality is used in this film a lot, and that's pretty obvious, but is it possible that it's used for similar purposes to Kubrick's later movies? FMJ had sexuality related to violence, as did ACO, so could this be a theme?


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09-12-2010, 10:27 PM
Post: #7
RE: Barry Lyndon
(09-11-2010 02:12 PM)Bassbait Wrote:  I suspect the film of being really in depth, just like his other work. Reading the production notes of Wikipedia (for laziness to look up more detailed articles), it says that he was so secretive about the production that he only told the lead actress "that it was to be an 18th-century costume piece [and] she was instructed to keep out of the sun in the months before production, to achieve the period-specific pallor he required."

Of course, Kubrick has always been secretive about things, but the fact that this film is no exception makes it quite apparent that there's no exception on the thematic and allegorical elements of his work here.

I also imagine that the scenes with candlelight are REALLY important, because he created a special camera using NASA lenses, which supposedly makes the lens aperture the largest used in film ever. I also read that he patented this design, and nobody has since made a film using it.

Also, here's a great quote that might have something to do with the film's themes (and, incidentally, The Shining's themes as well?) It talks about how he used lights shone through to give an all natural feel, and here's the quote:

"One telltale sign of this method occurs in the scene where Barry duels Lord Bullingdon. Though it appears to be lit entirely with natural light, one can see that the light coming in through the cross-shaped windows in the barn appears blue in color, while the main lighting of the scene coming in from the side is not."

It explains that this is a mechanical error, and that the film stock made the side light look blue. EIther way, Kubrick kept it in the film, so it's pretty obvious that he had a use for that. (see the picture I posted at the top if you want to see what I'm talking about).

Another important quote for any themes might be this one from Kubrick himself:

"I believe Thackeray used Redmond Barry to tell his own story in a deliberately distorted way because it made it more interesting. Instead of the omniscient author, Thackeray used the imperfect observer, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say the dishonest observer, thus allowing the reader to judge for himself, with little difficulty, the probable truth in Redmond Barry's view of his life. This technique worked extremely well in the novel but, of course, in a film you have objective reality in front of you all of the time, so the effect of Thackeray's first-person story-teller could not be repeated on the screen. It might have worked as comedy by the juxtaposition of Barry's version of the truth with the reality on the screen, but I don't think that Barry Lyndon should have been done as a comedy."

Considering that all of Kubrick's other narrators are downright liars in many parts, and considering that the truth is always distorted in his films, this seems like a weird quote, and perhaps he is lying straight to us? I don't know. Just a thought.

Kubrick also ended the film short of the novel's end, and increased the amount of time spent on "The period constituting his escape from the Prussian army to his marriage" (paraphrase)

My favorite quote from the page is this, though:

"Kubrick also changed the plot. The novel does not include a final duel. By adding this episode, Kubrick establishes dueling as the film's central motif: the film begins with a duel where Barry's father is shot dead, and duels recur throughout the film."

So the concept of 2 occurs throughout this film a lot, similar to The Shining. Anyways, that's all I can add right now. I think that this is the next Kubrick movie Rob should review, because it seems more important than Kubrick's earlier films, although maybe Dr. Strangelove has some really important Kubrick elements, considering that was Kubrick's big breakthrough as a director, in which he started to establish all of the things that his later films would elaborate on, including problems with machines (HAL, the doomsday machine), symbolic set design (the set of the war room, for example, although I'm not sure what exactly the symbolism is, I'm just guessing), multiple people being the same person (Peter Sellers plays three characters, which is similar to one character being portrayed by 3 different people, as with 2001), hierarchy issues (the government/military, which was expanded in 2001 and FMJ, and even The Shining?), and the objectification of women (shown in Miss Scott, which was then followed up in ACO and FMJ, as well as a slightly less amount in The Shining).

I guess I'm getting ahead of myself. I can't wait to read about Dr. Strangelove and Barry Lyndon!

EDIT: Is it possible that Kubrick had multiple roles for Sellers for more than comedic reasons? Perhaps the three characters he portrays have parallels? He was initially supposed to play Major Kong, so it's quite possible that Major Kong has a parallel to Sellers's characters, although Kubrick was known to edit the films a lot throughout their production, so it's quite possible that Kong would be phased out of the parallels.

One significant thing I see about Sellers's characters is that they are all from different countries, and, more importantly, all of them are from specific countries that had a big role in WW2: America, Britain, and Germany. Russia had a big role too, but Russia is not portrayed by specifically Sellers. Perhaps there is significance in Sellers's roles, and any possibility of parallels to WW2?

Oh, and one last thing: Sexuality is used in this film a lot, and that's pretty obvious, but is it possible that it's used for similar purposes to Kubrick's later movies? FMJ had sexuality related to violence, as did ACO, so could this be a theme?

Sounds like you're making a fair bit of progress on Barry Lyndon. The next Kubrick film I work on will probably be Dr Strangelove. It seems to be less complex than his later films (relief) and I've already identified quite a few themes in it. A.I. is another one in which I've found a lot of hidden narrative stuff so am eager to work on that too.

Barry Lyndon is still largely a mystery to me as it's the Kubrick film I'm least familiar with.

Oh, a little side project shortly will be a new chapter in the 2001 analysis comparing the book and film in detail - as a lot of folks are still reading the analysis and not understanding that the book is a separate narrative.
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09-13-2010, 05:23 AM
Post: #8
RE: Barry Lyndon
(09-12-2010 10:27 PM)robag Wrote:  Sounds like you're making a fair bit of progress on Barry Lyndon. The next Kubrick film I work on will probably be Dr Strangelove. It seems to be less complex than his later films (relief) and I've already identified quite a few themes in it. A.I. is another one in which I've found a lot of hidden narrative stuff so am eager to work on that too.

Barry Lyndon is still largely a mystery to me as it's the Kubrick film I'm least familiar with.

Oh, a little side project shortly will be a new chapter in the 2001 analysis comparing the book and film in detail - as a lot of folks are still reading the analysis and not understanding that the book is a separate narrative.

I don't own the movie, so I'm just going off of the one time I watched the film. I seem to remember the film a lot, maybe because it's hard to forget a movie that's over 3 hours long when I watched it in one sitting.

Dr. Strangelove, however, I've seen around 6 times, and I don't see anything quite on the level of 2001, but if every film he did after 2001 was so detailed, I'd expect Dr. Strangelove to be very detailed too, albeit not as much as his later films. It would seem as though his early work was all just building up until he perfected his style with 2001, which would mean that there would at least be some themes going on. I don't know about Fear and Desire or Killer's Kiss, but The Killing might have some themes, as would Lolita, considering that's an adaptation that varies from it's source material. I doubt that Spartacus would have many themes, seeing as how he didn't have much control on it.


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09-13-2010, 07:19 AM (This post was last modified: 09-13-2010 07:38 AM by buyklansticker.)
Post: #9
RE: Barry Lyndon
There's an interesting ambiguity about the interactions between Captain Potzdorf & Barry in their first encounter, & up until Potzdorf eventually exposes Barry's fraud. After he points out that Barry (or 'Lieutenant Fakenham') is travelling in the opposite direction to his apparent destination, Bremen, Potzdorf asks to see Barry's identity papers. Barry appears to hesitate before acceding -- for a moment it seems as though the ruse is blown, & that he will not be able to backup his story. But then it turns out that he apparently does have the right papers, & goes ahead & shows them to Potzdorf, who looks at them briefly before giving a strange sort of knowing smile & returning the papers. Apparently Barry's story checks out, & it is only later, over their drinks, that Potzdorf decides that Barry is an impostor, based on stories he tells that Potzdorf knows to be untrue.

But if we rewind to the scene in which Barry overhears the two gay officers talking in the water, we hear the following words spoken by the officer who Barry will later impersonate (is his name really Fakenham?):

"...but Potzdorf insists that I'm the only one on his staff who..." (at this point the narration drowns out the dialogue)

So it would seem that this officer is known personally to Potzdorf, probably by face & certainly by name. Since this is so, if this officer is really named Fakenham, surely Potzdorf would immediately be able to recognize that Barry is an impostor as soon as Barry introduces himself as this Lieutenant Fakenham. If the papers he shows are in fact those belonging to the real Fakenham this would confirm the lie. Otherwise, if the name on the papers is a different one (either the officer's real name, if he is not in fact called Fakenham; or possibly even 'Redmond Barry') -- which would account for Barry's hesitation before allowing Potzdorf to see them -- then Potzdorf would immediately see that Barry had lied about his name a moment earlier. Either way, Potzdorf must have privately recognized Barry's deceit before the end of this first scene, thus a long time before he announces it, & for different reasons than he eventually gives. The sly smile he gives while looking at the papers seems to confirm this.

This makes Barry's subsequent behaviour throughout his acquaintance with Potzdorf -- up until the moment Potzdorf publicly declares him "a liar, an impostor, a deserter" -- ambiguous. If the name on the papers is in fact 'Fakenham', as he introduces himself as, then he would have every reason to believe that Potzdorf believes his story, & his subsequent behaviour is a 'genuine lie' (i.e. he genuinely believes Potzdorf believes his lies) as it initially appears. However, if the name on the papers is not Fakenham, then the situation becomes really ridiculous -- both him & Potzdorf playing along with the same charade that they both know they both know is nonsense.

What the reasons might be for Potzdorf playing along like this are unclear, but it's another example of a sometimes-subtle Kubrick trademark; the calculated misrepresentation of situations (in this case Potzdorf's apparent belief in the truthfulness of Barry's story) by a higher authority -- often in order to guage the strength or threat posed by another party, according to whether or not this party accepts the authority's representation of things at face value. The prime example being HAL's interactions with the astronauts in 2001, as Rob explains in detail in this chapter of the 2001 analysis.

Perhaps Potzdorf simply enjoys having Barry ensnared like this, & so is happy to prolong the situation, like a cat playing with its caught prey before finally delivering the kill & devouring it.
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09-13-2010, 11:49 AM (This post was last modified: 09-13-2010 12:06 PM by Bassbait.)
Post: #10
RE: Barry Lyndon
(09-13-2010 07:19 AM)buyklansticker Wrote:  There's an interesting ambiguity about the interactions between Captain Potzdorf & Barry in their first encounter, & up until Potzdorf eventually exposes Barry's fraud. After he points out that Barry (or 'Lieutenant Fakenham') is travelling in the opposite direction to his apparent destination, Bremen, Potzdorf asks to see Barry's identity papers. Barry appears to hesitate before acceding -- for a moment it seems as though the ruse is blown, & that he will not be able to backup his story. But then it turns out that he apparently does have the right papers, & goes ahead & shows them to Potzdorf, who looks at them briefly before giving a strange sort of knowing smile & returning the papers. Apparently Barry's story checks out, & it is only later, over their drinks, that Potzdorf decides that Barry is an impostor, based on stories he tells that Potzdorf knows to be untrue.

But if we rewind to the scene in which Barry overhears the two gay officers talking in the water, we hear the following words spoken by the officer who Barry will later impersonate (is his name really Fakenham?):

"...but Potzdorf insists that I'm the only one on his staff who..." (at this point the narration drowns out the dialogue)

So it would seem that this officer is known personally to Potzdorf, probably by face & certainly by name. Since this is so, if this officer is really named Fakenham, surely Potzdorf would immediately be able to recognize that Barry is an impostor as soon as Barry introduces himself as this Lieutenant Fakenham. If the papers he shows are in fact those belonging to the real Fakenham this would confirm the lie. Otherwise, if the name on the papers is a different one (either the officer's real name, if he is not in fact called Fakenham; or possibly even 'Redmond Barry') -- which would account for Barry's hesitation before allowing Potzdorf to see them -- then Potzdorf would immediately see that Barry had lied about his name a moment earlier. Either way, Potzdorf must have privately recognized Barry's deceit before the end of this first scene, thus a long time before he announces it, & for different reasons than he eventually gives. The sly smile he gives while looking at the papers seems to confirm this.

This makes Barry's subsequent behaviour throughout his acquaintance with Potzdorf -- up until the moment Potzdorf publicly declares him "a liar, an impostor, a deserter" -- ambiguous. If the name on the papers is in fact 'Fakenham', as he introduces himself as, then he would have every reason to believe that Potzdorf believes his story, & his subsequent behaviour is a 'genuine lie' (i.e. he genuinely believes Potzdorf believes his lies) as it initially appears. However, if the name on the papers is not Fakenham, then the situation becomes really ridiculous -- both him & Potzdorf playing along with the same charade that they both know they both know is nonsense.

What the reasons might be for Potzdorf playing along like this are unclear, but it's another example of a sometimes-subtle Kubrick trademark; the calculated misrepresentation of situations (in this case Potzdorf's apparent belief in the truthfulness of Barry's story) by a higher authority -- often in order to guage the strength or threat posed by another party, according to whether or not this party accepts the authority's representation of things at face value. The prime example being HAL's interactions with the astronauts in 2001, as Rob explains in detail in this chapter of the 2001 analysis.

Perhaps Potzdorf simply enjoys having Barry ensnared like this, & so is happy to prolong the situation, like a cat playing with its caught prey before finally delivering the kill & devouring it.

I'm not sure if I posted a comment in reply to this, because I could swear I did, so it either got deleted or I didn't post it (likely the latter).

Ok, if I remember correctly, Barry was around when Fakenham mentioned Potzdorf. So wouldn't Barry know way ahead of time that using "Fakenham" would likely have him revealed? Is it possible that he wanted to be revealed? I don't know, that's just a thought, but, depending on who introduced who first (it's never revealed in the movie), then Barry is either intentionally trying to get caught, or he used the name before Potzdorf introduced himself, and would automatically be caught in his lie, which would mean Potzdorf would know he was lying. If they are both in on this thing, then is it possible that Barry was being deceptive before?

Because in the beginning, he has a rigged duel which we assume he doesn't know is rigged. Is it possible that he knew it was rigged the whole time? Also, in relation to the first duel, I noticed that it's completely different from the last duel, in which the first one has them both shoot at the same time, while the second duel at the end with Bullingdon has them taking turns firing at each other. I wonder if there's significance in that.

It seems that Barry has shown signs of deception, considering the whole segment of the movie involving Chevalier de Balibari. I'm going to far into things, because I am just making wild guesses. I don't have enough details to know the common themes of the film besides duels, and if dueling is a common theme, the thought of a conversation based completely on lies would make sense as a figurative duel in which instead of guns, they are battling wits, just as Bullingdon "dueled" his younger brother for attention (if I remember correctly), and so forth.

EDIT: I've always had the thought that Kubrick was the force that drove 2001: A Space Odyssey. Considering the many "movie within a movie" aspects of 2001, it's quite possible that Kubrick's real life attachments to in-movie things is evidence that he is the invisible force guiding the events of 2001. Rob has already talked about this. One quote that I just read seems very, very interesting, and it's about Barry Lyndon, by Roger Ebert:

"There's a sense in both films that a superior force hovers above these struggles, sometimes taking an interest. In "2001: A Space Odyssey," it was a never-clarified form of greater intelligence. In "Barry Lyndon," it's Stanley Kubrick himself, standing aloof from the action by two distancing devices: the narrator, who deliberately destroys suspense and tension by informing us of all key developments in advance, and the photography, which is a succession of meticulously, almost coldly, composed set images."

Ebert's interpretation of BL is that Kubrick is basically a god-like observer over the events of the film, and he is making us look through it in his eyes. That sounds an awful lot like 2001. Perhaps there are elements in both films that help to complete the other. Kubrick's late work seems to all relate to each other, so it's quite possible that certain elements of 2001 will help factor in to BL's themes, and probably ACO too, considering that Barry does seem a bit like Alex Delarge, and Young Bullingdon has basically the same style of hair as Alex (as I mentioned in the ACO thread).


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