26 September 2023

Brideshead Revisited, The Complete Series

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

Directors: Charles Sturridge, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Via Vision Entertainment.

Cast: Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, Diana Quick, Simon Jones.

It’s a well-deserved accolade: “Brideshead Revisited is television’s greatest literary adaptation, bar none. It’s utterly faithful to Evelyn Waugh’s novel yet it’s somehow more than that, too”.

The 11-episode serial, an adaptation of the 1945 novel of the same name, follows the life and romances of the protagonist Charles Ryder (Irons, Reversal of Fortune) and Sebastian Flyte (Andrews, The King’s Speech) from the 1920s to the early 1940s.

The series about very human struggles with the fearsome power of religion — to reject or embrace it — is told in a persuasive way. It’s a melancholic account of an elegant, but dysfunctional Catholic family, as seen through the eyes of Ryder, a son of the middle class.

Ryder’s friendship is telling with the Flytes, a family of wealthy English Catholics who live in a palatial mansion called Brideshead Castle. It premiered on ITV in the UK on 12 October 1981.

Ray Goode’s lovely photography contributes to the success, as does the inspired casting that also includes Claire Bloom as Lady Marchmain and Laurence Olivier as Lord Marchmain. The main characters grow and change, with multiple dimensions that are not just a response to external events, though motivated from within.

The story is told in flashback as Ryder, now an officer in the British Army, is moved with his company to an English country house that he discovers to be Brideshead; full of memories, along with a journey of faith and anguish.

Amid its affluence and attractiveness, the antithesis of difficulties, but eventually, the sorrow and heartbreak of Brideshead will be disturbing.

Can you tell us the date (in full) of this serial’s premiere? If your answer is correct in full, then you could win one of the two, four-disc DVD sets of the complete TV series of Brideshead Revisited. Entries should be sent to [email protected] by Monday, 22 June 2020. Names of the winners will be announced in Frank Cassidy’s PS-sssst…! column on 23 June 2020.

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