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Archive for February 18th, 2015

barry-lyndon-1

© 2015 by James Clark

There is a scene, in Kubrick’s film, Barry Lyndon (1975), which offers, within the work’s encompassing an avalanche of distemper, a moment of palpable equilibrium. A British soldier in Germany during the Seven Years War (1756-1763), namely, Raymond Barry, disguised as an officer in the course of deserting (hopefully to the neutral haven of Holland), encounters a young woman living in a farm cottage nearby and left alone with her child due to her husband’s having been swept up in the chaotic warfare. Barry, still redolent of his sweet Irish ways, is accorded a meal and then a few days of love with the keeper of the home fires, a transaction in bloom with gentle recognition of the fragility of existence. “It must be hard for you to be alone.”/ “It is… It must be very danger [the discourse sharing what English and German each can provide] for you to be in the War…” Before the encounter our protagonist is shown enlivened by his escape on horseback—a voice-over, by a narrator having heard of his misadventure after the fact, declaring (with Barry’s optics to confirm the point), “The open road… he vowed never again to fall from the rank of a gentleman…” The noble tone of the couple’s first dinner together (at a table bathed in golden candlelight enshrouded by pitch darkness) is sustained by her pristine question, “Would you like to stay with me for a few days?” and the simple touching of each other’s hand. Then he asks a question—innocent enough, but loaded with the volatility being glossed over by the flourish about constantly inhabiting a lofty rank—“Is the baby a boy or a girl?” In the eighteenth century that would mean to say (flying in the face of the ready confluence between them, just revealed), “Is this person active or passive?” The young mother tells him, “He’s a boy…” And despite the presumably blissful union onstream, as they share a poignant farewell and a kiss informed by strong and true affection, the keynote of action, with all its deathtraps, comes down like a cold, thick fog on that sparkling day. (more…)

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