Well, the trailer for the film adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel “Brideshead Revisited” is out, and the film is slated for a summer release here in the States. (Trailer | Official Site). Waugh fans can but lament that, whereas Waugh said the book was essentially about “the operation of divine grace”, the screenwriter of this adaptation openly admitted that the script “turns God into a villain”.
Rather than being bold and creating a genuine work of cinematic art to match the novel, they’ve decided to take the easy and conformist route and do a God-hating rompy flick. (Because we can’t have too many of those!). A shame, of course, but entirely predictable. Shall we at least have a look at the cast?
The original plan was for Paul Bettany (of “Wimbledon”) and Jude Law (“The Talented Mr. Ripley”, etc.) to play Charles Ryder and Lord Sebastian Flyte, but eventually Matthew Goode and Ben Wishaw were chosen for the respective roles. Matthew Goode is a somewhat talented actor, best known for “Match Point”, but it’s hard to picture him as the artist Charles Ryder. I have never seen Ben Wishaw in anything, but from the trailer he seems to be a touch too camp for the role of Sebastian. This is the trickiest territory, because Anthony Andrews played Sebastian just right in the famous television adaptation.
The producers wisely chose to use Castle Howard as Brideshead, as in the 1981 series. To my mind, Blenheim is the only other house which would have suited and presumably Castle Howard, being up north yonder, is more economical as a filming location.
Ah, what a sight to see. Does anyone in Britain (or indeed elsewhere) except the Duke of Devonshire still have staff like they did before the war? One would hope so.
Emma Thompson is Lady Marchmain. She can do proper well enough, but can she do landed? I don’t think so. I suspect one will simply get used to her about fifteen minutes into the film, but I think they could have cast this one better.
Lady Julie Flyte is played by Hayley Atwell, of whom we know nothing.
Michael Gambon is Lord Marchmain. A top-notch actor, but, like Thompson, he is lacking that certain necessary quality in this role.
Among the other roles, Greta Scacchi plays Cara, Lord Marchmain’s mistress. Cordelia is played by Felicity Jones, a well-known voice from “The Archers” and recently seen as Catherine Morland in “Northanger Abbey”. Charles Ryder’s father, Edward, so delightfully played by John Gielgud in the 1981 series, will be played by Patrick Malahide, best known as Chief Inspector Alleyn in the Alleyn Mysteries. Joseph Beattie, of whom we know nothing, will play Anthony Blanche, very well-played by Nikolas Grace in 1981, and another hard act to follow.
Instead of everyone wanting to be Bridey (as they should have!) hundreds of upper-middle-class Oxbridge undergrads all decided to emulate Sebastian, and emulate rather poorly at that. (They wanted to be Sebastian but ended up being Anthony Blanche). A teddy-bear named Aloysius and a jumper round the neck do not a conflicted Catholic aristocrat make.
Also, whenever anything today is done in a nice, old-school fashion some nitwit inevitably comes around and says “Oh, how Brideshead!”. It’s a bit like all those horrible people who see St Andrews for the first time and say “Wow, it’s just like Hogwarts!” Contrary to the popular imagination, drinking lots of champagne, dressing well, and taking a leisurely view of life all predate Brideshead Revisited.
This film version has some obvious flaws from the start, namely, inverting and perverting the entire essence of Waugh’s novel. Still, it has some talented, if ill-suited, actors in it and will hopefully be at least tolerable to watch. For me, much of it will hinge on how they treat the death of Lord Marchmain, if they even include the scene at all. I certainly plan on seeing it in the cinema instead of waiting for the DVD. And, hey, at least it hasn’t got Tom Cruise in it.