Thursday, January 8, 2009

Brideshead Revisited Revisited

One of the wonderful things about the Irish Times film reviews is the star rating especially the lowest one - "Avoid at all costs". I read the reviews regularly though seldom go to the pictures. Today's Irish times has an article by Eileen Battersby about the new film of Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited about to go on general release in Ireland. Not strictly a film review it compares the new film with the book and the Granada television version of 1981. That the article is titled Brideshead besmirched says it all.

I was introduced to Waugh at college by Fr Thomas Lynch our English teacher - introduced in the sense of told about - there were no Waugh books in the small college library. When I went to training college in Dublin I bought most of the novels in the secondhand bookshops on the quay and enjoyed them. Brideshead Revisited was a strange one - not satiric like the others, more serious but wonderfully elegaic - not something someone of twenty appreciates. I watched the TV version in 1981 and reread the book then.

This time last year the Daily Mail gave away the series over twelve days and I got them all. I watched them all again and reread the book. The first thing that strikes you is that the book is actually quite short. You expect an epic but get a medium sized novel. It is a wonderful evocation of times past, times when everything seemed happy and full of promise. Waugh is a master of the language, a master of suggestion and master at using words and language to create a world of uncertainty and change, of transient happiness which is constantly threatened. One of the strong points of the TV adaptation was how closely it kept to Waugh's words though this adds to the feeling of hearing Jeremy Irons' voice as you read the book.

I don't think I'll go to see the new film though I might reread the novel. I must add it to my list of favourite novels on the sidebar.

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