Brideshead Revisited is a gorgeously shot, fabulous adaptation of the classic novel of the same name by famous English writer Evelyn Waugh. It is a film about class struggle, religion, forbidden love and the loss of innocence, and comes with all the opulence and British landscapes you could hope for.
Waugh wrote the book in just four months whilst on leave from the army during the latter stages of the Second World War in 1944.
The story begins at Oxford University in 1925, where Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode) is befriended by the flamboyant aristocrat Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw), son of Lord and Lady Marchmain (Michael Gambon and Emma Thompson). Charles is completely seduced by his friend’s glamorous world and thrilled by an invitation to ‘Brideshead’, the Marchmain’s magnificent ancestral home. Impressed by his surroundings, Charles becomes infatuated with Sebastian’s beautiful sister, Julia (Hayley Atwell). As his emotional attachment to both Julia and Sebastian grows, Charles finds himself increasingly at odds with the family’s strongest bond: a deep and abiding Catholic faith. Brideshead Revisited is essentially a story about the decline of the English Catholic aristocracy, and how divine grace operates, bringing diverse characters together against the odds.
Writer Jeremy Brock (Last King of Scotland, Mrs Brown) felt the love story has much resonance today: ‘The triangular love story between Charles, Sebastian and Julia seemed to tell a story about caste, which I found very contemporary and fresh,” he says. “And I thought there was a way to tell this story about an outsider coming into this family – a caste very different to his own -and dealing with that in a way that is very true to the book but also tells a modern audience something about fundamentalism and about how difficult it is to grow beyond our roots, to live beyond what has formed us in our childhood.”The producers were very keen to keep the acting cast British because of their inherent knowledge of the British class system. Julian Jarrold the film’s director explains: “I felt it was going to be so much easier – almost effortless for a British actor to drop into the role and understand the clash of manners, propriety of the period and intricacies of the English social system – than for actors who might not have grown up in it. “
The setting: Apart from the authentic setting in Oxford, and various opulent locations around the world including Venice and Morocco, the production team had to looked at houses across England to find the perfect set. One particular house offered them the architecture of the period, a Catholic atmosphere with its exquisite chapel, baroque features and religious iconographic artwork along with the all-important ‘wow factor’: Castle Howard in Yorkshire. Shooting in one of the England’s most spectacular country houses was not lost on the cast. Stepping into centuries of history, the well-trodden stone slabs of Castle Howard’s corridors gave them a valuable sense of their characters’ background and history.
Brideshead Revisited will be showing as part of the From Blighty with Love season across Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, from 26th February to 11th March, with a chance to speak to British filmmakers via live Skype chat after selected shows. The screening date for Brideshead Revisited is tentatively scheduled for Thursday 11th March
By Ellen de Vries