Barry Lyndon

Barry Lyndon is an Anglo – American historical film written and directed by Stanley Kubrick and released in 1975 . It is adapted from the picaresque novel , Memoirs of Barry Lyndon , William Makepeace Thackeray 1 .

With the lead roles including Ryan O’Neal and Marisa Berenson , the film depicts the fate of a young intriguing Irish penniless in the sumptuous English society of the xviii th century , its social ascent full of audacity and wickedness 2 After marrying a lady who will bring him a considerable fortune and give him a son, to his decay.

Film of great visual beauty, Barry Lyndon is entirely shot in natural light and period decorations. The film is nominated seven times at the Academy Awards and wins four awards. It is however a commercial failure in the Anglo-Saxon countries, in spite of good critics.


The film is divided into two parts 3 :

  • ” By What Means Redmond Barry Acquired the Style and Title of Barry Lyndon ” ( “How Redmond Barry Acquired the Way and Title of Barry Lyndon” )

In the xviii th century, in Ireland , in the 1750s , the father of Redmond Barry ( Ryan O’Neal ) is killed in a duel in a quarrel about buying a horse. His widow, Belle ( Marie Kean ), disdains all offers of marriage to devote herself to the education of her only son.

Barry falls in love with his cousin Nora (Gay Hamilton), which seduces him. But when John Quin, a rich English captain, makes love to him, his cousin abandons Barry who has no money. Nora and her family are developing a plan to get out of poverty through a marriage that is beneficial. Barry refuses the situation and believes to kill Quin in a duel.

Barry fled to Dublin, but he was robbed by a highwayman, Captain Feeney (Arthur O’Sullivan), who stole his horse, his money and all his equipment. Broken and penniless, he joined the British army as a private. He is joined in his regiment by a friend of the family, Captain Grogan (Godfrey Quigley) who informs him that he did not kill Quin, his gun being loaded with a harmless ball of tow . The duel was rigged to force Barry to move away so that his cousin could marry Quin and restore the family fortune. For the price of his silence, Grogan received from Nora’s family a large sum of money, which he offered to share with Barry.on the continent. We are at the beginning of the Seven Years’ War . Grogan is wounded by the French, and, before dying, confesses to Barry that he lost half of the money at the game [ref. necessary] which was intended for him. Now alone, Barry decides to desert. He steals an officer’s uniform, a horse, identity papers and a travel order. On the way to Holland, country deemed neutral, he meets the Prussian captain Potzdorf ( Hardy Krüger), who unmasks him. The latter offers him the choice either to be shot or to join the Prussian army. Barry finds himself a simple soldier, this time in the Prussian army with very hard discipline. During a battle, he saves Potzdorf’s life, wounded by artillery fire.

After the end of the war in 1763, Barry remained in the service of Captain Potzdorf. He introduced him to his uncle, the Prussian police minister, who ordered him to serve as a servant of the Balibari Knight (Patrick Magee), an Irish professional player. The Prussians suspect him to be a spy and Barry has to bring evidence. In the presence of the knight, Barry confesses to him the stratagem (in the novel, this admission is facilitated by the fact that Barry recognizes in him his own uncle) and they associate to cheat the cards. The knight to be expelled from Prussia, they set up a scheme so that Barry could also flee Prussia. Barry and the knight go to all the courts of Europe to live on their skill in the game. Barry defies all the debtors in a duel.

Realizing that this life does not lead him to anything, Barry decides to marry a rich aristocrat. He sets his sights on the beautiful and very rich Countess of Lyndon ( Marisa Berenson ) and has little difficulty in seducing her. He marries her as soon as the death of her husband, the old Sir Charles Lyndon ( Frank Middlemass ), who sinks into depression after having knowledge of adultery.

  • ” Containing an Account of the Misfortunes and Disasters Which Befell Barry Lyndon ” ( “Relationship of the misfortunes and disasters that led Barry Lyndon to his fall” )

After his marriage in 1773, Barry moved to England to take advantage of his fortune and took, with royal permission, the name of Barry Lyndonː but destiny will hit. Although he has become a Lyndon, he does not have a personal fortune. His son-in-law, Lord Bullingdon, son of Sir Charles, aged 10, hates him and sees him as a vile opportunist who has taken his father’s place and squanders the family fortune. Barry Lyndon corrects it regularly. The marriage is unfortunate. The countess gives birth to a child, Bryan Patrick. Barry squanders his wife’s money and makes her unhappy by deceiving her and reducing her to being home alone to take care of the children. Later, he comes to his senses and apologizes to her.

Years later, Barry’s mother comes to live with him. She realizes the precariousness of her son’s social position. If Lady Lyndon were to die, the family fortune would go to her son, Lord Bullingdon (who is now a young man, played by Leon Vitali ) and leave Barry penniless. Barry’s mother is pushing him to obtain a noble title to protect himself from this situation. He cultivates relationships with the influential Lord Wendover ( André Morell) spending a lot of money to achieve this goal. All his efforts are without effect. On the day of Lady Lyndon’s birthday, Lord Bullingdon proclaims his hatred for his father-in-law, and the father-in-law then beats him before the assembly of very important guests. After that, Lord Bullingdon leaves his family and England for an unknown destination. Barry’s public cruelty to his son-in-law makes him lose all his support in high society, despite all his efforts to integrate socially.

As bad as he treats his son-in-law, he is, on the other hand, good father and compassionate with his son Bryan, with whom he spends all his time. However, the day before his ninth birthday, the boy is unhorsed from a horse and dies a little later. Heartbroken, Barry sinks into alcoholism, while Lady Lyndon finds her comfort in religion excessively, assisted by Reverend Samuel Runt ( Murray Melvin), Lord Bullingdon’s first guardian and then Bryan. However, Barry’s mother dismissed the Reverend, chiefly because he no longer needed a guardian and his influence on Lady Lyndon was considered harmful. Plunging even more in despair, she tries to commit suicide. Lord Bullingdon, in the news, returns to England and challenges Barry to a duel.

In the barn where the duel is held, the drawing of lots gives Lord Bullingdon the privilege of shooting first. The gun goes off unexpectedly. Barry, voluntarily and magnanimously, pulls on the ground. But Lord Bullingdon refuses to stop the duel. He fires and this time, his shot touches the leg of his opponent. Barry must be amputated below the knee.

During Barry’s convalescence, Lord Bullingdon took control of his estate. He sends his accountant and emissary Graham (Philip Stone) to his cottage, where Barry recovers, to make him an offer. Lord Bullingdon guarantees an annual pension of 500 guineas for life if he leaves England and terminates the marriage with Lady Lyndon, otherwise his pension and his bank account will be canceled and Lord Bullingdon will personally ensure that his debtors can throw it away. in prison. Broken psychologically and physically, Barry accepts the offer. He travels to Ireland with his mother, then travels across the European continent again becoming a professional player, but far from his successes of yesteryear. He will not see Lady Lyndon again. The final scene, in 1789, shows Lady Lyndon, middle-aged, signing of

The film ends with this epilogue : ” It was in the reign of King George III that the aforesaid personages lived and quarreled; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now ” ( ” It was under the reign of King George III that these characters lived and quarreled, good or bad, beautiful or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now ” ) 4 .

Technical sheet

  • Original title: Barry Lyndon
  • French title: Barry Lyndon
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick , assisted by Brian W. Cook
  • Scenario: Stanley Kubrick after Barry Lyndon’s memoirs of William Makepeace Thackeray
  • Artistic direction: Ken Adam (supervision), Roy Walker
  • Sets: Vernon Dixon
  • Suits: Ulla-Britt Söderlund , Milena Canonero
  • Photography: John Alcott
  • Sound: Bill Rowe , Robin Gregory
  • Editing: Tony Lawson ; Rodney Holland (sound)
  • Music: Johann Sebastian Bach , Georg Friedrich Haendel , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , Giovanni Paisiello , Franz Schubert , Antonio Vivaldi , Frederick II of Prussia , Seán Ó Riada
  • Arrangements and musical direction: Leonard Rosenman
  • Choreographer: Géraldine Stephenson
  • Production: Stanley Kubrick ; Bernard Williams (associate); Jan Harlan (executive)
  • Production Companies: Peregrine, Hawk Films, Warner Bros
  • Distribution Company: Warner Bros.
  • Budget: 11 million dollars (estimate)
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English , French , German
  • Format: Colors (Eastmancolor) – 35 mm – 1.66: 1 ( intended ratio ) – Mono
  • Genre: History
  • Duration: 177 minutes
  • Release dates:
    • United States , United Kingdom :
    • France :
    • Re-entered France


  • Ryan O’Neal (VF: Bernard Murat ) : Barry Lyndon, born Redmond Barry
  • Marisa Berenson (VF: herself) : The Countess of Lyndon
  • Leon Vitali (VF: Jean-François Poron ) : Lord Bullingdon
  • Dominic Savage : Lord Bullingdon Child
  • Patrick Magee (VF: François Chaumette ) : the knight of Balibari
  • Hardy Krüger (VF: Dominique Paturel ) : Captain Potzdorf
  • Marie Kean (VF: Élisabeth Kaza ) : Beautiful, Barry’s mother
  • Murray Melvin : Reverend Samuel Runt
  • David Morley (VF: Morvan Salez ) : Bryan Patrick Lyndon
  • Steven Berkoff (VF: Jacques Ciron ) : Lord Ludd
  • Gay Hamilton : Nora Brady
  • Diana Körner : Lischen
  • Frank Middlemass (VF: Jacques Mauclair ) : Sir Charles Reginald Lyndon, Knight of the Order of the Bath
  • André Morell (VF: Louis Arbessier ) : Lord Gustavus Adolphus Wendover
  • Arthur O’Sullivan  ( VF: Henri Virlogeux ) : Captain Feeny
  • Billy Boyle (VF: François Leccia ) : Seamus Feeny
  • Godfrey Quigley (VF: Roger Carel ) : Captain Grogan
  • Leonard Rossiter : Captain John Quinn
  • Philip Stone (VF: Roger Crouzet ) : Graham, secretary of the countess
  • John Bindon : The recruiting sergeant
  • Jonathan Cecil ( Francis Lax ) : Lt Jonathan Fakenham
  • Peter Cellier : (VF: Jean Berger ) : Sir Richard
  • Geoffrey Chater : Dr. Broughton
  • Roger Booth (VF: Henri Poirier ) : George III
  • Anthony Sharp (VF: Jean-François Laley) : Lord Hallam
  • Ferdy Mayne (VF: Michel Gatineau ) : Colonel Bulow
  • Wolf Kahler : The Prince of Tübingen
  • Michael Hordern (VF: Jean-Claude Brialy ) : the narrator
Source and captionFrench version (VF) on Allodoublage 5



In his adaptation of Thackeray’s novel, Kubrick added some elements such as the discussion between the two British homosexual officers and Barry’s last duel with his son-in-law.

We find in this film a lot of items in the Battle of Culloden in Peter Watkins : the theme of the battle, the slow and repetitive rhythm and the use of voice-over ( Michael Hordern in the original version, Jean- Claude Brialy in the French version).

Aesthetics of the film

Since 1969 and the preparation of his Napoleon , Kubrick head turn with only candlelight 6 . Unfortunately, at that moment, the idea is impossible to implement technically and will be one of the elements preventing the realization of this film 7 . In 1973, when Barry Lyndon began shooting , the idea of lighting a candle film resurfaced. Kubrick, a former photographer, is very much on the subject.

Shot entirely in period decor (at Castle Howard in particular) and natural light, thanks to very bright camera lenses (a Zeiss of focal 50 mm and aperture f / 0.7 originally designed for NASA, mounted Mitchell BNC camera already used for Orange mechanical and sacrificed for the occasion since it undergoes irreversible modifications in order to make it compatible with the objective 8 ), and to the special treatment of the films, this film profits from an exceptional photograph which gives it a rather dark aesthetic and very particular, quite in the tone of history and genre paintings of the time.

The costumes in the film (simple clothing or military uniforms) were designed from authentic models; thus, the French regimental flag seen in the battle scene is that of the Regiment of Flanders. The creation took about a year and a half.

The viewer is thus in fact immersed in the intimacy of the characters and the desired Kubrick, who wanted to make a documentary that would have happened in the xviii th century. He said in this regard: “The cinema must look realistic, since its starting point is to believe the story it tells. ” These requirements explain that the film required a year of preparation 9 .

For exteriors, Kubrick used focal lengths of 18 or 25 mm and small apertures; the resulting large depth of field gives the landscapes a filmed look. For scenes lit by candles, Kubrick used candelabras seventy candles, often with extra candelabra of three or five candles on the table 10 and a focal modifier transforming the 50 mm f / 0 , 7 in 35 mm 8 .

Most of the outdoor shots were shot in Ireland, as were scenes in England and Prussia during the Seven Years’ War . The artistic inspiration of Kubrick, Ken Adams and Roy Walker comes mainly from the artists of the English School of Painting , with portraits, Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds , John Constable ‘s inspired landscapes , and scenes of interiors, William Hogarth and Joseph Wright of Derby , especially in his treatment of chiaroscuro 11 .

The shooting lasted for three hundred days of spring 1973 to early 1974, with a break for Christmas 12 . The film’s budget reached $ 11 million.

The role of the narrator [ change | change the code ]

Kubrick has been using storytelling since his early films (notably The Ultimate Razzia or Lolita ). In Barry Lyndon , it allows Kubrick to limit the dialogues between the various protagonists, to specify the places and the dates, but it also uses it to contradict the images. It also allows Kubrick to announce in advance the important moments of intrigue to strengthen the side “inevitable” what needs to happen 13 .

Unlike the novel that is in the first person, the storyteller in the movie uses the third person. Kubrick thought that in the book the first person was meant to present the real facts in a distorted way. According to him, a film showing an objective reality told by a distorted manner of heroes could only be a comedy, it would not 14 .


Unlike his previous films, Kubrick chose vintage music and not an original score 15 .

The soundtrack mixes Irish folklore (played by The Chieftains ) and classical music, including:

  • Johann Sebastian Bach : Concerto for 2 Harpsichords in C minor – Adagio
  • Georg Friedrich Haendel : Sarabande of Suite n ° 11 in D minor
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart : March of Idomeneo –
  • Giovanni Paisiello : ” Saper bramante “, extract from Il barbiere di Siviglia
  • Franz Schubert : Dance No. 1 in E flat majorTrio for Piano and Strings o 2 , op. 100 – e movement
  • Antonio Vivaldi : Cello Sonata in E minor op. 14 – e movement
  • Frederick II of Prussia : Hohenfriedberger Marsch
  • Seán Ó Riada : Irish traditional tunes

Kubrick explains: “I first wanted to stick exclusively to the music of the xviii th century though there is no rule in this area. I think I have at home all the music of the xviii th century recorded on LPs. I listened carefully. Unfortunately, there is no passion, nothing that even remotely can evoke a theme of love; there is nothing in the music of the xviii th century that has the tragic sense of Triofrom Schubert. So I ended up cheating a few years by choosing a piece written in 1814. Without being absolutely romantic, it is something tragic romantic. 15 »


If Barry Lyndon is hailed as a film of great visual beauty, it is a commercial failure in the Anglo-Saxon countries. Kubrick was particularly affected by the fact that his work transcript of the aesthetics of the xviii th century was not greeted with enthusiasm. In Europe, however, the film has had some success, particularly in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Globally, the film reported 20 million 16 .



  • Oscars 1976 17
    • Oscar for Best Artistic Direction : Ken Adam , Roy Walker and Vernon Dixon
    • Oscar for Best Photography : John Alcott
    • Oscar for Best Costume Design : Ulla-Britt Söderlund and Milena Canonero
    • Oscar for best film adaptation : Leonard Rosenman
  • BAFTA 1976: Best Director , Best Photography


  • Oscars 1976 : Best Film , Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay
  • BAFTA 1976: Best film , Best artistic direction , Best costumes
  • Golden Globes 1976: Best Dramatic Film , Best Director
  • César 1977 : Caesar of the best foreign film

Around the film

  • A large number of performers (at least seventeen), shot in the 1960s in the famous British series Bowler Hat and Leather Boots ( The Avengers ). Among them, Murray Melvin , Leonard Rossiter , Godfrey Quigley , Philip Stone , Frank Middlemass , Roger Booth and Michael Hordern 18 .

Notes and references

  1. ↑ [1] [ archive ]
  2. ↑ The novel that inspired the film ends with “the Irish property is rented in all small farms to peasants, who still tell stories to foreign audacity, the devilry of the evil and the fall of Barry Lyndon “.
  3. ↑ (in) Script Barry Lyndon , The Daily Script . [ archive ]
  4. ↑ This passage is not in the novel. On the other hand, the last page contains a rather close passage: “This gentleman had been transferred from prison to prison until he was deposed at the hands of Mr Bendigo, Chancery Lane, Middlesex sheriff’s assistant. from whom he went to Fleet Prison. The sheriff and his assistant, the prisoner and the prison itself no longer exist today. “
  5. ↑ French dubbing of the film sheet on Allodoublage , accessed February 16, 2013. [ archive ]
  6. ↑ [ archive ]
  7. ↑ [PDF] Stanley Kubrick exhibition , French Cinematheque . [ archive ]
  8. ↑ a and b ” Two Special Lenses for Barry Lyndon “ [ archive ]
  9. ↑ Jean-Pierre Frimbois, Hundred Masterpieces from the historical film , Marabout, 1989 ( ISBN  2-5010-1141-4 ) , p.  34.
  10. ↑ (in) John Alcott quoted in Great Cinematographers . [ archive ]
  11. ↑ The visual splendor of Barry Lyndon (1975): between aesthetics and pictorial influences , Laure Nermel, In: A British art? , May 24, 2014. [ archive ]
  12. ↑ Baron 2001
  13. ↑ Cement 2004 , p.  170
  14. ↑ Cement 2004 , p.  167
  15. ↑ a and b Cement 2004
  16. ↑ [ archive ]
  17. ↑ [ archive ]
  18. ↑ [ archive ]

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