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This BBC production on George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, isn't about the works of the renowned English poet and satirist, known widely as Lord Byron. Rather, its focus is on the life of the man. As such, it seems to do a very good job of showing a conflicted and tormented life that Byron lived. This is the story of a tortured soul who wrote about his own conflicts and failure to find fulfillment in pleasure. And it is about a witty, talented thinker and writer who could give us such classical satire as "Don Juan."
I think a passage from the Encyclopedia Britannica describes well the varying views on Byron's place in letters. "Renowned as the 'gloomy egoist' of his autobiographical poem, "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" (1812-18), in the 19th century, he is now more generally esteemed for the satiric realism of "Don Juan" (1819-24)."
It was long ago that I read "Don Juan" and perhaps some small parts of other works or letters. So, I appreciated the review by Ginger Johnson (3 December 2005) who gave some information and points about the film as it depicted Byron's life.
With the reviews I've read as of the time of my writing, I am surprised that no one has commented on Byron's background and upbringing. His is a classic tale (if, indeed, one can use the term in this context) of a broken home in childhood, with an abusive, negligent and then absent father. As a boy, he and his mother were a low-income family, and then at the age of 10 he had great wealth thrust upon him by inheritance. He grew up without discipline or responsibilities. He was extremely self- centered and selfish what we might call "spoiled" today.
Why is this worth pondering? Because, had he grown up in a healthy home with loving parents and some direction, there's a good chance that Bryon's life would not have been so tragic and short. And, we might have had the pleasure of more literary treasures today.
The film covers mostly his last few years with his adultery, heavy drinking, and constant pursuits of pleasure amidst his travels. I agree that the acting was very good by all. The direction and technical aspects were all quite good. And, while it is a good depiction of the life of Lord Byron, I can't say that I enjoyed the film as entertainment. Nor could I enjoy watching it time and again, as one reviewer says he does. As reviewer Ginger Johnson noted, because Byron's life was "ill-spent," the film isn't a joy to watch. I can watch films about tragedies, injustices and other subjects that may be edifying or educational in some sense, but that often are not enjoyable entertainment.
The life of Lord Byron was a tragedy. He died at 36, a tormented, conflicted soul, trying to help a cause he thought worthy. I think this film rightly does not celebrate Byron or his life. Rather, it laments the great loss for what might yet have been. Therein is the tragedy.
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