Robert Everett-Green, a writer at The Globe and Mail, recently reached out to me regarding Stanley Kubrick’s film Barry Lyndon based on the novel by William Thackeray. I haven’t met many people who have actually seen this masterpiece, but Rotten Tomatoes has it right. As Everett-Green puts it well in a short piece, the film goes beyond being a mere historical drama that dresses its character in period costume to something that approaches sublime.
Everything comes together in this film in a marvelous way such that the story of a lonely individual, framed by his raw ambition and desire, reveals an even larger, more daunting web of aristocratic expectations, which itself is set against a backdrop of warring European monarchies (Seven Year’s War).
Everett-Green quotes the English historian Richard Cobb, “Clothes called to clothes, cutting out words and greetings.” A wonderful and telling quote, referring to that set of unspoken cultural forces compelling men and women to dress alike while also driving them apart in the end.