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  • Evelyn Waugh's 'Brideshead Revisited' is, I think, the quintessential and the finest novel of the twentieth century - English literature at its highest form. And this 1981 miniseries does the novel great justice: its episodes give us television's finest hours.

    The splendid cast makes the most of the rich script, which is as faithful to a novel as a script can be. My favorite is Phoebe Nicholls as Lady Cordelia: her performance is disarming, utterly charming. And Nickolas Grace plays to the hilt the sybaritic, viper-tongued Anthony Blanche.

    Jeremy Irons does sterling service as the narrator, Charles Ryder, who is, after all, Waugh's observant eye and eloquent tongue; Irons depicts poignantly Ryder's "conversion to the Baroque" crashing to bits against the cold gracelessness of "The Age of Hooper". As the rapidly dissolving Lord Sebastian Flyte Anthony Andrews is memorable - should Waugh's book ever again be adapted for the screen the lot of the actor cast as Sebastian will not be enviable.

    Claire Bloom's Lady Marchmain is a study in quiet dignity upheld vainly in the face of the twentieth century's ravaging of her character's world and sensibilities. Sir Laurence Olivier's Lord Marchmain is letter-perfect; and in the deathbed sequences Olivier's performance is tenderly, expertly nuanced.

    Diana Quick was a bit too old to play convincingly the debutante Lady Julia of the early episodes, but in the later ones Quick hits perfectly every disillusioned, jaded, repentant note. Charles Keating as Rex, who inhabits a "harsh acquisitive world", is an exemplar of shallowness, of the venality Waugh detested - and satirized so hilariously in his earlier novels: he's nothing more than a Hooper with money and ambition.

    Simon Jones gives us Bridey's stodginess and bewliderment with marvelous understatement. John Gielgud steals every scene as Charles's father Edward, brilliantly interpreting of one of Waugh's most delicious, yet indigestible characters.

    There are rich offerings, too, from character actors: Stephane Audran glows warmly as Clara, Lord Marchmain's insightful, intuitive, down-to-earth mistress; John LeMesurier leaves us suitably agape as the Jesuit Father Mowbray baffled and dismayed by Rex's utilitarian approach to his conversion to Catholicism; Jeremy Sinden sails naively along as the indefatigable yet ever-dimwitted and clueless Boy Mulcaster; Ronald Fraser stirs just the right sloshing of queasiness as the peculiar, opportunistic shipboard cocktail party guest; Jonathan Coy, as the parlous, seedy Kurt, is perfectly repellent; Jane Asher tiptoes delicately through Celia Ryder's conventional, porcelain sensibilities; and Mona Washbourne knits a thoughtful, lovely portrait of Nanny Hawkins.

    Throughout 'Brideshead Revisited' the photography is lush, meticulous, yet tasteful. The score is understated, never intrusive, always complementary. Costuming, set design and, above all, location, are unrivalled. Charles Sturridge's direction is evenhanded, assured - and his pacing of the narrative treads adroitly every beautifully-modulated beat.

    I bought the DVD version of this series and, though occasional bits of the image transfer are a trifle fuzzy and the sound re-recording is sometimes uneven, the nicely boxed set of discs pleased - and goes on pleasing - me greatly.

    In the early third millennium, a time of evermore immature programming and production executives - a dismal age of TV's Hoopers, I have to suspect sadly that television will never again attain the heights to which 'Brideshead Revisited' vaulted. But I shall remain ever grateful for this magnificent series.
  • Brilliantly adapted by John Mortimer from Evelyn Waugh's celebrated novel of England between the first and second World Wars, BRIDESHEAD REVISITED may be the best miniseries ever made. Smoothly and subtly directed by Charles Sturridge and Michael Lindsay-Hogg, the twelve hour program is beautiful to look at, the cast is remarkable, and the story has amazing impact.

    The miniseries follows the novel closely, beginning near the end of World War II as Charles Ryder (Jeremy Irons) grows disdainful of military life, which he finds a study in futility--and then flashes back twenty years as Ryder recalls his relationship with the aristocratic Marchmain family, a relationship that begins when he becomes friendly with Marchmain son Sebastian Flyte (Anthony Andrews) while the two are students at Oxford.

    The miniseries captures perfectly a golden moment of youth--and then the gradual disillusionment brought by the passage of time. Like all great works, BRIDESHEAD REVISITED--both book and film--touches on a great many themes, most specifically an innocent type of homoeroticism, loss of innocence, alcoholism, adultery, and changing society; ultimately, however, the story is about spiritual values and how they survive in even the most unlikely of circumstances--and how God works through individuals in the most unexpected ways.

    The performances here are truly fine beyond description. Jeremy Irons has seldom surpassed his work here, and neither Anthony Andrews nor Dianna Quick (as Julia, Sebastian's sister) have ever bested their performances in this film. In addition to the three leads, the miniseries offers an incredible array of superior performances by John Gielgud, Claire Bloom, and Laurence Olivier; the cinematography and art design is flawless; and the score by Geoffrey Burgon is exquisite. Mortimer's script is remarkable in that it not only manages to recreate the novel, it also manages to capture the intangible, spiritual elements upon which the book plays but seldom directly references. A must-own work for any one who appreciates the best of the best; strongly, strongly recommended.

    Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
  • The book and the mini-series always broke my heart. I first read the book and viewed the series as a teenager and it affected me much more then "Catcher in the Rye".

    It is probably one of the finest adaptations of a novel put to film. You watch as the reckless innocent fun of youth is slowly taken away and replaced by sad old cynicism.

    It captures the feeling of the stolen season of peace between the world wars and the cool observant eye of Waugh who before hand always wrote detached speedy amoral stories. This seemed so...different.

    The acting is so on the spot. Carefully restrained and woeful as we watch our favorite characters grow.
  • Everyone is of course entitled to an opinion about matters such as this, but how anyone can rate this series as anything less than a great milestone in television is, to my mind at least, quite difficult to understand.

    I recently re-read Evelyn Waugh's wonderful novel and was, consequently, inspired to watch the series for the fourth time, on DVD on this occasion. It is disappointing that the DVD boxed set contains no additional features as one would expect from a series which is so highly regarded by so many people. At least, interviews with the stars and comments by the Director, Charles Sturridge, would have been welcome. In that respect, the DVD set can be seen to be somewhat lacking.

    However, the acting, direction, costume design, sets and John Mortimer's brilliant adaptation of the novel for television make this one of the greatest achievements in television and a demonstration of what can be accomplished in that medium with a great deal of care for detail.

    What I find particularly heart-rending is the transition from the light and airy early scenes to the darker ending of the series. I am really not sure whether this comment contravenes the "spoiler" guidelines but I suspect that I'm on reasonable safe ground in that regard.

    I would go so far as to suggest that "Brideshead Revisited" lives up to the comments which were made about it at the time of its release in the early '80s that it is one of the greatest television series ever produced and it is hardly surprising to me at least that a series of such enduring quality emanated from the UK.

    10 out of 10 from me. I am looking forward to reading the book and seeing the series again at some time in the not too distant future.

    Please do yourselves a great favour and read the novel and then see the series. You will find, as I have done, that it is a true classic and a faithful adaptation from the novel to the small screen.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    There are only a few opportunities in one's life to see such an excellent adaptation of a great novel. John Mortimer has done a wonderful job of adapting Evelyn Waugh's masterpiece, "Brideshead Revisited." None of the plot from the novel is left out, and all the characters retain their original qualities. Only a few moments of Charles' narration is left out of the series. The series does great justice to the novel, and it is a truly excellent experience. The novel is a brilliant story of loss and yearning, filled with many superb characters, it is one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. Because an entire essay can be devoted to the content of the story I will only be talking about the production of the serial. First and foremost, the series is directed by Charles Sturridge and Michael Lindsay-Hogg. Unfortunately, as is the case for all television, the directing is not that good from a visual point of view. The directors' handling of the actors is quite good, however the camera angles are boring, they are almost all in closeup. The cinematography is good enough, (it can hardly look bad with those locations) but the transfer on the DVD is not great, there are a few moments of fuzziness. Aside from the visual components, the production values are irreproachable. The entire series is shot on real locations, Oxford, Castle Howard, QB II, and all the costumes are correct. The essence of the period is remarkably well done.

    Jeremy Irons is masterly in the role of Charles Ryder, he has a wonderfully understated, yet passionate quality. His narration is absolutely mesmerizing. This is Jeremy's star-making performance, and it is one of the most brilliant I have ever seen. His transition from youth to middle-age is extraordinary.

    Anthony Andrews plays Sebastian Flyte. If you see Brideshead for no other reason, see it for this brilliant, one of a kind performance. It is impossible to forget Anthony Andrews in this role, his facial expressions and appearance epitomize the destruction of innocence. He commands your attention even in scenes with Jeremy Irons and Laurence Olivier. I have never seen a drunkard played better. Andrews brings genuinely tragic overtones to the story.

    Diana Quick is miss-cast in the role of Julia Flyte. The character in the book is supposed to be extremely beautiful and look just like Sebastian. Diana Quick was too old for the role, and her looks to not grab you. Still, it was a very fine performance, though at times she seems to have received bad direction. The fountain scene is rather studied.

    Jane Asher is quite good in the role of Celia Ryder, she is extraverted, and unbearably irritating in the role as she should be.

    Nickolas Grace is wonderfully comic, though very theatrical in the role of Anthony Blanche. He steals all of his scenes. No actor can speak with a stutter better than he,

    John Grillo is humorous in the role of Mr. Samgrass. He is masterly with his balance of humor and irritation.

    Simon Jones gives a fine performance as Lord Brideshead. His pompousness knows no bounds.

    Charles Keating is perfect as Rex Mottram, his callousness is perfectly contrasted with the other actors.

    Phobe Nicholls is remarkable as Cordelia Flyte. This is one of the more difficult roles in the series, her transition from childhood to adulthood is astonishing.

    Jeremy Sinden is good in the role of Boy Mulcaster. He has the perfect voice.

    Laurence Olivier is absolutely astonishing as Lord Marchmain. His final deathbed scene is masterly. He isn't even moving, and yet the scene is compelling. A truly excellent performance.

    Claire Bloom is superb in the role of Lady Marchmain. She is brilliant in concealing her deception.

    Stephane Audran is not particularly good in the role of Cara. Most of her performance is very typical of television.

    Mona Washbourne is right for the role of Nanny Hawkins. You don't even notice she's acting.

    John Le Mesurier is fine in the role of Father Mowbray. He has some good comic moments.

    John Gielgud is wonderful as Edward Ryder. The characters' aloofness is perfectly realized. He steals his scenes.

    Thus, "Brideshead Revisited" is an excellent drama, and perhaps the finest mini-series ever made.
  • It is exceptional to find something in life that improves with age. Brideshead Revisited is one of those exalted things. Having just completed watching the entire series I can say that it is actually better than I remembered when I first saw it over 15 years ago. Seldom do so many things (cast, writing, locations, costumes) come together and form a harmonious whole. Brideshead is a tour-de-force of the film maker's art that glows with a magical intensity all its own.
  • Possibily there have been two other television adaptations from literature that have equaled "Brideshead Revisited". One, somewhat earlier and in black and white, was "The Forsythe Saga"; the other was "The Jewel in the Crown" and that was in 1983. I honestly can't think of anything of a similar magnitude in the intervening years. Not that television isn't producing great drama: the BBC's rightly acclaimed costume dramas have mostly hit the mark and writers like Alan Bleasdale and Stephen Poliakoff have given us some great contemporary stuff. It's just that television no longer seems prepared to take risks, (and its time), and give us epic serializations like "Brideshead Revisited" and "The Jewel in the Crown".

    With a running time of almost 12 hours, "Brideshead ..." was, to say the least, properly detailed. We were party to the silences between the words and the inactivity between the action. We were, if you like, party to the character's every breathing moment and never for an instant was it dull. On the contrary, with one of the best casts ever assembled for a television production and with a splendid script by John Mortimer, it was thrilling.

    Its hero is Charles Ryder, a somewhat vacuous young man whose sole purpose in life seems to be a 'hanger-on', primarily to the Marchmain family and, despite a few sojourns into the wilderness, if he isn't within their radar he seems not to exist at all. He is played by Jeremy Irons, an actor who can perfectly capture the pallid in-consequentiality of someone who exists only in the eyes of others. It is Charles who tells us the tale and it is the tale of the Marchmains, firstly of Sebastian and latterly of Julia.

    It is through Sebastian that he first encounters the family; Sebastian, the beautiful, slightly effete and, as it turns out, dipsomaniac young lord who befriends him at Oxford. Though never explicit, we must assume they become lovers and in a sexual way. Charles never makes any bones about loving Sebastian and later, even when embroiled in an affair with Julia, it is Sebastian who fills his thoughts. Charles, it would appear, is truly bisexual, though finally it is with women that he consummates his relationships. Sebastian, on the other hand, is gay and a drunk; self-loathing, not because of his sexuality which he seems to happily accept, but because of who he is, a Marchmain. The love of Sebastian's life turns out not to be Charles but Kurt, a young German deserter even more in need of love and affection than he. Even when Charles severs all ties with the Marchmains after he and Sebastian 'break up', he keeps being drawn back into their circle, finally embarking on a passionate love affair with Sebastian's sister, Julia.

    The Marchmains are Catholics and that is something of an anachronism in the English gentry. Their Catholicism overwhelms them. Where none of them seems to have a 'profession' their Catholicism becomes their profession; their private chapel is their bank and their faith is their currency. it alienates both Sebastian and Julia whose sex-drives are at logger-heads with the teachings of their Church. (Julia, even more so than Sebastian, is overwhelmed by guilt but then, she doesn't have the demon drink to fall back on). Brideshead, the older son and Cordelia, the younger daughter, on the other hand, seem positively priest-like and nun-like in their asexuality. Lady Marchmain is a cold gorgon of respectability whose self-righteousness has driven, first her husband from her and then her son. Lord Marchmain lives with his married French mistress in Venice.

    All these characters are beautifully delineated and played. Olivier is a magisterial Lord Marchmain while Claire Bloom has seldom been better than as Lady Marchmain and, given time to fully develop their characters, Diana Quick, (Julia), Simon Jones, (Brideshead), and Phoebe Nichols, (Cordelia), are superbly cast as other members of the family. And then there is Sebastian: Anthony Andrews performance is one of the great pieces of acting. Sebastian is, by nature, theatrical but Andrews breaks down his theatricality and gets to the very core of the character. His drunk scenes are phenomenal and, as he breaks down, he is extraordinarily moving. He departs from the series about half way through but his presence is felt to the very end.

    Four other performances stand out. John Gielgud is a wonderfully comic foil as Iron's supercilious father; John Grillo is properly oily as the toadying Mr Samgrass, (he is like the snake in the Garden of Eden); Stephane Audran is an oasis of calm sensuality as Cara, Lord Marchmain's mistress and Nickolas Grace is magnificent as Anthony Blanche, Sebastian's flamboyant, outré gay friend at Oxford. So indelibly does Grace inhabit the role that I found it impossible to separate the actor from the part. His performance seems to transcend acting altogether, though I am sure Mr Grace isn't like Anthony at all in real life. These are the kind of performances and this is the kind of television that makes you glad that someone had the wherewithal to invent the medium in the first place. It's a masterpiece.
  • This is the finest series I've ever seen on television. The fact that is based upon an excellent novel is only part of the equation. The locations, the music, the acting - everything comes together so beautifully in this project. Who else, besides Evelyn Waugh, writes lines like: "I was taken by the double illusion of familiarity and strangeness." or "A thin bat-squeak of sensuality..." or " I found myself close to heaven in those days."

    I must single out Sir John Gielgud. Every time he is on screen, he is hilarious. What a treasure.

    Watching this series is a bit like getting lost in reading "Lord of The Rings." You like the 'place' that they take you so much, you don't want it to end. If cable ever offered a Brideshead Revisited channel, I'd be among the first to subscribe.
  • Simply enchanting. Waugh's excellent use of English in recounting the story of the doomed Marchmain family is brought to life without losing one iota of its charm and power. I doubt that anyone will be able to imagine anyone other than Anthony Andrews as Sebastian or Nikolas Grace as Anthony Blanche; Jeremy Irons gives a well-rounded performance, Diana Quick is suitably gorgeous and a host of great English actors (Gielgud, Olivier et al) lend support to a fantastic script and excellent direction. See this.
  • The adaptation is so good that one can read Waugh's novel while watching and practically not miss a word. The lush prose of the novel is there, as well as perfect visual imagery of the settings, absolutely essential to the integrity of the piece.
  • A dream cast with a magnificent script (John Mortimer) brings to life Evelyn Waugh's elegiac upon the between-wars years. Golden years and golden people are lost, and the sense of loss is captured in the changes inflicted on the buildings, and in Geoffrey Burgon's heart-wrenching score. Brideshead captures the clash of humanistic values with those of old-time Catholicism, while tracing the decline of an aristocratic (somewhat precious) family, in a series that is part comedy, part romance, part tragedy. It is an enriching experience that no-one should miss.
  • Old Bridie stuck with me for years between first seeing it and then reviewing on a tv re-run not long ago. The story of Charles and Sebastian and their families (and Sebastian's teddy bear) opens out Evelyn Waugh's slow-paced novel and instead of rushing through it in a couple of hours takes time to work with it and present the story at a leisurely pace, taking stock of some of the UK's greatest scenery.

    Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews play the leads, who meet at University and become lifelong friends. Diana Quick and Phoebe Nicholls play Sebastian's sisters, and the two boys' fathers are played by no less than Olivier and Gielgud. Inspired casting. Mona Washbourne is also used well, along with Nickolas Grace.

    I think the days of these long and involved dramas have long gone by in the climate of 'whatever grabs ratings quickest'. But Granada TV managed to make a British gem which will and should be remembered for many years. Excellent.
  • May-111 July 2004
    This is the reason why I love British TV so much. Who else dares to take a complex, demanding book and make a complex, demanding series of it? There is no concession here to change the story in order to make it easier to understand, no letting out some of the characters, no letting out some of the issues (e.g. Catholicism), no letting out Evelyn Waugh's wonderful narrative passages… There is supposed to be a law when making a literary adaptation: do not use voice-overs, unless you want to bore the audience to tears. ‘Brideshead Revisited' made me see that, when done well, voice-overs can be wonderful (especially when Jeremy Irons does the narration). Almost everything in the book was conveyed to the screen, including the most important aspect: the mood. This is how England in the 1920-30-40s must have been. This series was shot in the 1980s but you could never tell, it perfectly captures the costumes, the manners, the hairstyles and even the pace of a world that was less hectic than ours. I confess that it did take me some chapters to start loving it. For all people whose native language is not English, it is not easy to follow the dialogues (maybe the DVDs are better, but the sound in the videos is appalling). Therefore I recommend reading the book before or while watching this, or so much of the narration and the witty dialogue gets lost. All actors were great, but I would like to defend two that don't seem to be very appreciated: Diana Quick as Julia and Simon Jones as Bridey. The first gets better and better as the series go on, and she is perfect as the 30-something, jaded, bored wife. Some people don't seem to like her scene at the fountain. I wonder if they know how a fit of hysteria looks like in real life. It is not pretty to look at. You cannot act like a hysterical woman in a dignified way. Bridey seemed to come straight out of the book, even regarding his `Aztec' features. I think he is one of the most difficult characters to play and Simon Jones was flawless. One last comment: the music by Geoffrey Burgon is mesmerizing. (P.S.: I don't understand the previous review. I don't want to offend, but why re-read a book that you were forced to read at high-school and then watch an 11-hour long series just to confirm your opinion that you hate it?? And regarding `Waugh's WAY overdone "look at how smart I am" vocabulary': it is called literature and some of us happen to like it. I don't understand the adjective `loquacious' either: most trashy best-sellers nowadays are much longer than my 331 page long edition of BR, and compared to the richness of Waugh's prose they are just pathetic, void efforts).
  • The highbrow language, the love affair of two men in an aristocratic old charm catholic environment, the wonderful story, excellent casting, gorgeous locations & sheer beauty of it all makes this the best TV-serie I have ever seen in my entire life. The first time I saw it, it helped me more to understand the English language than years of school. Every time I see it, I am enticed to watch it completely.
  • I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that this is probably the finest adaptation of a novel put to film. It is a real work of astounding and living art. It is very rare that you find something so perfect.

    The cast alone should get anyone interested. It is a veritable who's-who of British stage & cinema. Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, Diana Quick, Claire Bloom and the giants of Sir John Gielgud & Lawrence Olivier all contribute to this masterpiece.

    It is so stimulating on so many levels. Visually you can't find anything more glorious than Castle Howard (Brideshead in the series). But it is far more than just visual grandeur. The story touches on so many very important things. All the real things that people go through in changing times. Like all works of brilliance, there is a true tragedy to the story. The whole thing is incredibly sad. Not in a easy way - like someone dying, but in a very deep way-of-life way.

    I can watch this show again and again. The music also contributes so much to the series. Whenever I hear it I automatically replay some of the scenes in my head.

    For me there is only show that comes close and that is Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. It is about something completely different, but there are some similarities.
  • As the cover said, this is the TV series that still stands as the benchmark for others. I could quite confidentially say it still does. If scale would be 1 to 100 in stead of 1 to 10 I would still give it a full 100, since this is simply the best series you can or will come across, if you like British acting (who wouldn't), the Golden Years of pre-WW2, and a moving story. Knock-out performances by the incomparable Laurence Olivier, Jeremy Irons and last but not least in my opinion the best character ever put down on film: Sebastian by Anthony Andrews. Well all will know this story about romantic yearning, friendship, loss and mostly the English charm of it. In a concluding scene with Charles Ryder he was told by an old student friend that that charm (of Sebastian) was dangerous, and that it almost took the best of him. And that might be true in a general sense: once seen it is hard to come to terms with it, first that this series is finite, and second the tragic fate of indeed the most charming person on screen yet, Sebastian, that sort of friend that we are all looking for, but who is so hard to find!
  • .... it did start to drag for me in the latter hours. I found the initial episodes magical and enticing as Charles and Sebastian embarked on their quasi-courtship. (Indeed, in the novel, Waugh's prose seemed so much more satisfying in the early chapters.) The latter part of the story had less allure for me, and my interest waned. Perhaps this had much to do with the main characters becoming older and jaded, and the sense of pervading sadness through the story was tougher for me to bear. Despite this (which probably has more to do with me than with the series) I found the experience excellent television. I watch a lot of television, something that inspires haughty disdain from pseudo-intellectual acquaintances who like to dismiss the "idiot box". Thanks to public television in my area broadcasting the likes of Brideshead, I can scoff at such detractors.
  • For decades I have been the fondest admirer of Evelyn Waugh, one of the most skilful English writers of the 20th century. His best known novel "Brideshead Revisited" deals with an intricate web of human relations and religious concerns spanning decades. This complex structure is one not to be easily transcribed to the screen.

    I confess that the first time I heard about the mini series I was greatly skeptic about it, thinking it would be one more of these common cultural crimes, i.e. simplifying and reducing the greatness of a masterpiece in order to make it more palatable to the general public. What was then my surprise! The series not only preserved the story to the point of almost maintaining all the book's original dialogues but the aesthetic beauty of the images is beyond reproach.

    I strongly recommend this work for all who enjoy art in general and Evelyn Waugh in particular.
  • The period detail is excellent, the acting superb, and the script remains faithful to the novel. Some really good bit actors, as well. The homosexual aspects are not overplayed, but come across as part of the 'real lives' of the characters, and help the narrative move forward. Visually a delight, the film takes us from stately mansions and period homes to a fleabag brothel in northern Africa. Highly recommended.
  • I've finished watching the whole series on DVD last night. It is a wonderful and faithful adaptation of the E. Waugh's book and what can I say that's not already been said here? It's just so beautiful and sad that it hurts thinking about it... Jeremy Irons' performance, like a finely tuned instrument, has subtlety and passion in the same degree and Anthony Andrews' Sebastian is a study in charm and self-destruction that enthralls and saddens by its intensity. All the actors, no matter how small their role, were impressive and none of them gave overstated performances. Bravo to all involved in it and I'm pretty sure we'll never see anything like it on the small screen again. I shall treasure it and will re-watch it many, many times, I am sure! P.S. Et in Arcadia ego - Isn't this part of the story the most heart-rending depiction of love, innocence and happiness ever committed to screen?
  • Today, nearly all television is dominated by the cult of celebrity. From soaps to reality TV it is built around this format. So to find a gem - "Brideshead Revisited" - amongst this gaudy glitz is an utter revelation.

    Unfortunatately, I suspect younger audiences raised on fast paced presentation may find it a struggle to sit still long enough to become enthralled by it but, if they give it a chance, they will be. Majestic it certainly is from the fabulous locations - Venice - Castle Howard, the superb acting - Lawerence Olivier, Nikolas Grace, Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, Diana Quick, Mona Washbourne and Cordelia (apologies I can't remember her name) all wonderful and, finally, to the captivating music of Geofrey Burgeon - it is TV at its very best.

    PS Apologies if any name misspelled.
  • Beautiful and lush, Brideshead Revisited is a most delicious adaptation of Waugh's poignant masterpiece. Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews are exquisite as the reflective Charles Ryder and the self-destructive Sebastian Flyte, and the all star cast flame with colour and exuberance. The drama unwinds with ease and luxury, unfurling on your screens in moments sumptuous scenery and evocative dialogue. The intimate narration intermingles Waugh's luscious descriptions and lavish set scenes. Visually stunning and achingly sad, this drama will haunt you for many days. It is certainly one of the most ambitious and well crafted television dramas that has been for years and will continue to be so for many more.
  • bandw24 September 2011
    Warning: Spoilers
    The story begins with a voice-over given by Charles Ryder, a captain in the British army during WWII, expressing weariness of his being in the army. Charles' battalion was being transferred to headquarters at a new site, a mansion called Brideshead. Once there the story is told in flashbacks as Charles ruminates on the past twenty years of his life and loves that were intimately connected to Brideshead and the Flyte family of Marquess Marchmain who made it their home.

    Charles' introduction to the wealthy Flyte family was to fall in love with Lord Marchmain's son Sebastian while he and Sebastian were students at Oxford. It remains unclear whether Charles' relationship with Sebastian was overtly homosexual, but in any case it was intense. The complex relationships that develop between Charles and the Flyte family form the basis of the story. The series is of such a length as to be able to develop the cast of characters in depth.

    Many themes are touched on: love, loyalty, infidelity, class, and alcoholism, among others. The overarching theme is the role that religion plays in the lives of the characters. Charles is a self-proclaimed agnostic while the Flytes are Catholics having varying degrees of adherence to the Catholic faith and customs. I doubt that it was the intention, but the main message I took away from this was the destructive power of religion. With her strict adherence to the Catholic faith and its customs the strong willed Lady Marchmain managed to destroy Sebastian as well as the love between her daughter Julia and Charles. Sebastian's brother is no less pernicious--he does not even recognize how cruel his hidebound adherence to rules makes him. Given Charles' detailing of the irrationalities of religion, commented on throughout the movie, and his recognition of how religion had ruined his relationships with Sebastian and Julia, his conversion at the end puzzled me. From Charles' behavior it would appear that he was never inoculated with religion when he was young; from what we see of his father I doubt that he got it from him. So, what did Charles see that moved him to convert? The trigger point seemed to be when he saw Lord Marchmain cross himself at the end of his life. The movie would have made more sense to me if Charles' experiences had made him even more confirmed in his lack of belief, the point being that the gap between believers and non-believers is difficult to bridge. But I suppose the movie is more thought provoking as it is. The message must be that once you tap into a relationship with a higher power, that becomes the primary driving force of your life.

    The production values of this series rank with the highest of any lavishly funded first run movie. The remastered version on the 2006 DVD is excellent. Filming in existing castles and actual locations makes for much realism. The attention to period details, from autos, to furniture, to dress, to household ornaments, is amazing. There is an incredible hunting scene that must have taken forever to stage and film. This has the look of a "cost and time are of no concern" project. I doubt that there will ever be a more detailed view of upper class British life between the wars as this.

    This is the most fully realized adaptation of a novel I have seen. Every scene is thought through and, unless you have a most vivid imagination, improves on reading the novel. Consider the scene where Cordelia is speculating to Charles about Sebastian's ultimate fate. In the novel Cordelia's recounting is one lengthy monologue, whereas in the movie Phoebe Nicholls delivers the lines with some detachment, but punctuated with significant pauses letting you infer the underlying emotion. We see Charles' reactions conveyed by his facial expressions, and the body language between the two says much. I picked up on the humor in the book in the scenes with Charles and his father, but my conception paled in comparison with the hilarious interpretation given by John Gielgud. And so it goes with every character. Once you see Nickolas Grace as Anthony Blanche you will never be able to imagine that character in any other way.

    Since Charles is the central character, the movie would be greatly diminished without a strong performance in that role. Jeremy Irons fills the bill most admirably. Charles is the kind of person that things happen to rather than actively making things happen. This does not mean that he does not experience life intensely and in his voice-overs and actions Irons strikes just the right tone of detached restraint masking strong emotion.

    This series is a refutation to anyone who thinks that motion pictures are not an art form. When the spoken word, music, and visual images are skillfully combined, the effect is mighty powerful.
  • ross-cohen-rc14 April 2010
    A remarkable adaption of one of the best novels of all time; Brideshead Revisited is a complex and subtle story about growing into adulthood set amid the cross-currents of Catholicism, modernity, aristocracy, homosexuality and war. It is not merely a virtually complete adaption -- even rarer, it is also accurate in feel, character and tone. At times funny, sometimes heart-rending, the story and characters are always fascinating; moreover there is an overwhelming sense that what one is seeing is true, that is, true to life.

    It's beautifully filmed, and the cast is titanic -- Olivier, Gielgud, et al. I hate to pile on the superlatives, but it probably really is the best TV ever made.
  • Brideshead Revisited - I have seen the full series several times, I have read the book and I also saw the TV-series on Danish Television, when it was first shown in the early 80's. Brideshead Revisited is in my eyes the masterpiece of British TV-drama. The extremely precise adaption of the somewhat short novel succeeds in the difficult art of capturing the nostalgia, which is the main theme of the book. It is after all first of all a tale of, how the world was as a young man - before everything was changed by WWII.

    I am not sure, whether book-critics regard Brideshead Revisited as the author's main work, or it just happened to be well suited for filming; but the final TV production is of a quality, which makes all this irrelevant. I have seen most of the great British TV-series, and I always loved the best of them - this one is better than the best. As so many others on this site, I rate it as a clear 10 out of 10.
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