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An aristocratic English family is shown in the years between the Great War and The Second World War, often at the crumbling family estate, Brideshead Manor, trying to deal with family problems like alcoholism, homosexuality, religious mania and sexual dysfunction and find "happiness." Written by
There are only a few opportunities in one's life to see such an excellent adaptation of a great novel. John Mortimer has done a wonderful job of adapting Evelyn Waugh's masterpiece, "Brideshead Revisited." None of the plot from the novel is left out, and all the characters retain their original qualities. Only a few moments of Charles' narration is left out of the series. The series does great justice to the novel, and it is a truly excellent experience. The novel is a brilliant story of loss and yearning, filled with many superb characters, it is one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. Because an entire essay can be devoted to the content of the story I will only be talking about the production of the serial. First and foremost, the series is directed by Charles Sturridge and Michael Lindsay-Hogg. Unfortunately, as is the case for all television, the directing is not that good from a visual point of view. The directors' handling of the actors is quite good, however the camera angles are boring, they are almost all in closeup. The cinematography is good enough, (it can hardly look bad with those locations) but the transfer on the DVD is not great, there are a few moments of fuzziness. Aside from the visual components, the production values are irreproachable. The entire series is shot on real locations, Oxford, Castle Howard, QB II, and all the costumes are correct. The essence of the period is remarkably well done.
Jeremy Irons is masterly in the role of Charles Ryder, he has a wonderfully understated, yet passionate quality. His narration is absolutely mesmerizing. This is Jeremy's star-making performance, and it is one of the most brilliant I have ever seen. His transition from youth to middle-age is extraordinary.
Anthony Andrews plays Sebastian Flyte. If you see Brideshead for no other reason, see it for this brilliant, one of a kind performance. It is impossible to forget Anthony Andrews in this role, his facial expressions and appearance epitomize the destruction of innocence. He commands your attention even in scenes with Jeremy Irons and Laurence Olivier. I have never seen a drunkard played better. Andrews brings genuinely tragic overtones to the story.
Diana Quick is miss-cast in the role of Julia Flyte. The character in the book is supposed to be extremely beautiful and look just like Sebastian. Diana Quick was too old for the role, and her looks to not grab you. Still, it was a very fine performance, though at times she seems to have received bad direction. The fountain scene is rather studied.
Jane Asher is quite good in the role of Celia Ryder, she is extraverted, and unbearably irritating in the role as she should be.
Nickolas Grace is wonderfully comic, though very theatrical in the role of Anthony Blanche. He steals all of his scenes. No actor can speak with a stutter better than he,
John Grillo is humorous in the role of Mr. Samgrass. He is masterly with his balance of humor and irritation.
Simon Jones gives a fine performance as Lord Brideshead. His pompousness knows no bounds.
Charles Keating is perfect as Rex Mottram, his callousness is perfectly contrasted with the other actors.
Phobe Nicholls is remarkable as Cordelia Flyte. This is one of the more difficult roles in the series, her transition from childhood to adulthood is astonishing.
Jeremy Sinden is good in the role of Boy Mulcaster. He has the perfect voice.
Laurence Olivier is absolutely astonishing as Lord Marchmain. His final deathbed scene is masterly. He isn't even moving, and yet the scene is compelling. A truly excellent performance.
Claire Bloom is superb in the role of Lady Marchmain. She is brilliant in concealing her deception.
Stephane Audran is not particularly good in the role of Cara. Most of her performance is very typical of television.
Mona Washbourne is right for the role of Nanny Hawkins. You don't even notice she's acting.
John Le Mesurier is fine in the role of Father Mowbray. He has some good comic moments.
John Gielgud is wonderful as Edward Ryder. The characters' aloofness is perfectly realized. He steals his scenes.
Thus, "Brideshead Revisited" is an excellent drama, and perhaps the finest mini-series ever made.
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