Brideshead (and painful memories) Revisit


I just finished reading “Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh last night and watched the film version directed by Julian Jarrod this afternoon. I must say the book is quite a difficult read but engrossing and entertaining nonetheless. The Brideshead in the title pertains to the estate the Flyte owns and the grandeur of the place is reminiscent of the popular television series, “Dowtown Abbey”. It is set in mid 1930s, a time when modern transportation, or motorized vehicles has just been introduced and the waning to obscurity of horse-drawn carriages was featured, along with the luxurious feel of the English countryside, successfully attained through the stunningly beautiful cinemetography. The book version focuses more on the friendship between Charles Ryder and his Oxford pal Sebastian Flyte, told in the point of view of the former. Eventually as the story progresses, he,(Charles)  becomes close to the family and rightfully gives the reader a first-hand account inside the mysterious family, cloaked by English propriety and affluence. Religion, or Catholicism in general, weighs heavily on all the characters that it dictates their actions, behaviors and the aftermath of their piety and its effects, good or bad.

After reading this book and Atonement the previous month, I find England at the turn of the century, has prominent attitudes toward  the concept of servantitude that it  somehow made me feel lazy and just want to read and drink more coffee or tea. But then I’m back to reality and people nowadays don’t just give orders (unless they still have servants) but instead do things on their own.  It also evoked painful memories of my recently-deceased brother, because like Sebastian Flyte, he had it all in the beginning and to end up like they did due to their battle with alcoholism, made me ponder a lot about life thereby prolonging my finishing this said book.

The film version was a disapointment because it greatly altered some crucial events in the book just to make it all come together, with poor results. It was done in a frantic manner-ending up with a considerable screenplay that I did’nt find faithful to the book. For one, I did’nt think Sebastian was too flamboyant and so obviously gay and the movie focuses more on the love affair between the hero and the badly miscast Julia (I can imagine Kiera Knightley). The saving grace of the movie was the said cinemetography,  the shots were too picturesque, with a postcard-like feel to it. The screenplay, though poor compared to the book, has a memorable line that will reverberate in my head for some time, the scene where Charles visited Sebastian,poor and sick, in a Moroccan infirmary “…don’t end it like this, Sebastian”.



Astounding Atonement

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Last Sunday, I finished reading the book of the same name and then watched the movie version afterwards. “Atonement” by Ian McEwan and the movie by Joe Wright was obviously meticulously prepared by the two, both respected and admired for being heavyweights in their respective fields of choice. The said project has the air of heavy seriousness like Ivory Merchant productions, which is mainly about childhood innocence and beauty, which unfailingly delivered by the way, also add to that the tragedy of war and one comes up with a body of work so impressive it even brought forth a range of emotions, mainly pain, deep sadness, jealousy and regret on my part. It must be noted that while reading the book, I also felt a certain love/hate feeling for the author for how he beautifully constructs sentences, even making me want to write and read more.The casting was almost impeccable, the main actors continuing to work with the director upto this day (the movie was released in 2007 and the book published in 2001). James McAvoy plays the lead character Robbie Turner, who was the son of servants but is intelligent enough to win scholarships and put himself through the best schools in England, and is handsome enough too to catch the attention of Cecilia Tallis (Kiera Knightley). Robbie’s parents worked for the Tallis family and they were in turn, supportive of his education. Since he’s also almost the same age as the Tallis older children, Robbie mingles with them and is not considered a stranger by the typically affluent, proper English family. In short, he’s on a roll- just about to go to medical school, a blossoming love affair on the horizon, but then it all disappeared like smoke when Robbie carelessly committed a harmless mistake. No lucky stars could save him when the young Briony Tallis,(played by the weird looking young Saoirse Ronan) a budding writer with an imaginative and creative mind, who’s also thirsty for adventure in that hot, boring summer, illusioned a life-changing, chaotic almost sinister turn of events. What transpired afterwards altered the courses of their lives and their relationships, add to that the devastating and harrowing effects of war,and like most love stories of that time, the personal tragedy amidst the beauty of Europe magnify the cathartic experience patrons of the genre so loved. The novel can be classified as Sophoclean (from the famed Greek writer of tragedy, Sophocles) and also Hardy-esque, (the British Victorian writer, Thomas Hardy, whom I admired so much) strongly suggesting the power of fate, and how we, as humans can be almost powerless beside it. This is an arguabletopic but the author got me into thinking hard about this- his other books are also about the relevance of fate, and most of his subjects were filthy rich, educated people who ran out of luck. As a chapter in the book so clearly describes Briony Tallis, herself an aspiring writer, people in that profession have a knack for creating and inventing things, therefore also enabling them to play god in a way.

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It may almost be formulaic, but it works wonderfully, much credit goes to Ian McEwan, whose talent and creativity are enviable indeed. He provided the already talented Joe Wright with sure-proof material guaranteed to captivate audiences just with the right amount of cunning to make this work standout. The clever ending and the plot-twists will certainly keep audiences entralled. I just stumbled of this book from a used bookstore then remembered it had a movie, so
I downloaded it. It was such a treat for me, the kind one indulges in once in awhile and it also happens to be one of my pet peeves (period movies and books). It’s also no wonder that the movie was usually nominated during the year of its release. The book was critically acclaimed too. I enjoyed it so much largely to GOT being absent from my weekly treats, and the concept ofreading the material first then watching it afterwards got me hooked-I actually scanned my
bookshelf for WW2 stuff that made it into the big screen. Next is “Brideshead Revisited” and a lot more that I’ll be writing about. It’s not weirdness but delayed gratification on my part. In this day of INSTANT I’m secretly feeling smug.