hitchens on brideshead


As I drove away from a California screening of the new film version of Brideshead Revisited, I was amused to overhear the comments of my companions from the back seat. “I thought the one who played Jeremy Irons was a bit thin …” “I liked the Anthony Andrews character better … ” It is more than a quarter of a century since the late William F Buckley introduced the Granada TV series to the American viewers of the Public Broadcasting System, and the residual effect is one of what Harold Isaacs once called “scratches on the mind”: a very durable if sometimes vague cultural impression. (My son was born in 1984 and as I was carrying a teddy bear home, and happening that day to be wearing a white linen suit, I was astonished by the number of passers-by in Washington DC who shouted “Hi Sebastian!” at me as I tooled along.) The directors Charles Sturridge and Michael Lindsay-Hogg achieved their 1981 success by gorgeous photography, of course, and also by generally inspired casting. The locations, plainly, required little or no embellishment. And the music was suitably … well, evocative. But most of all, they were faithful to Evelyn Waugh’s beautiful dialogue and cadence, both in set-piece scenes and in sequences of languorous voice-over in Oxford and Venice and – perhaps decisively – in the opening passage, where the melancholic Captain Charles Ryder hears the almost healing word “Brideshead” spoken again: “a name that was so familiar to me, a conjuror’s name of such magic power, that, at its ancient sound, the phantoms of those haunted late years began to take flight”.

more from The Guardian here.