Master director Stanley Kubrick turned to the 18th-century novel by William Makepeace Thackeray for this costume drama about an Irish rogue who climbs to the top of English aristocratic society.
Barry Lyndon focuses on poor but handsome Irish boy Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal) – describing his rise and fall from grace. Believing he has killed a cowardly English Captain (Leonard Rossiter) in a duel – and stripped of his small fortune by a deferential highwayman – the young Redmond enlists in the army. After his first taste of combat in the Seven Years’ War, he’s caught attempting to desert and is forced to enlist in the Prussian army.
Taking up with fellow Irishman the Chevalier de Balibari (Patrick Magee), he finally escapes army life and begins a profitable career as a gambler around the courts of Europe.
He eventually marries wealthy English countess Lady Lyndon (Marisa Berenson), and squanders the Lyndon family fortune in an attempt to buy the title of Lord, but only incurs the hostility of her 10-year-old son Lord Bullingdon (Leon Vitali).
Lyndon is eventually undone by his own greed and egotism and we leave him alone, poverty-stricken and minus one of his legs.
The film was an $11 million production – well made, beautifully photographed and narrated in avuncular form by Michael Hordern – but energy and emotion were sorely lacking, and most moviegoers probably walked out of this three-hour ordeal more dazed than entertained.
Determined to film by natural or historically accurate light sources, Kubrick and his cinematographer John Alcott acquired super-fast lenses to capture scenes lit only by candles.
The production was set against the music of Bach, Handel, Schubert, Mozart, and Vivaldi, and the film’s cinematography won Oscars for Art Direction, Costume Design and Musical Score.
Redmond Barry (Lyndon)
Lady Honoria Lyndon
Chevalier de Balibari
Reverend Samuel Runt
Sir Charles Lyndon
Lord Gustavus Adolphus Wendover
Captain John Quin
King George III
Lt. Jonathan Fakenham