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Monday, 28 July 2008

Bad Brideshead, or, Arcadia Fire

Hollywood is so often blamed for ruining the great cultural objects, that it is worth noting that a mainly British team have managed to lay waste to the latest screen adaptation of classic 1940s novel Brideshead Revisited - or so the commentators have been lining up to claim (Eyewear will see the film in the fullness of time).

The irony is that Americans and Canadians (critics and audiences alike) grew up in love with the Granada TV series, which was aired on PBS. The fact that a vast audience in North America was primed and ready for a cinema version seems to have been overlooked by the cynical fire-sale crew who remade it ("everything must go") - who chucked out, apparently, the Teddy Bear, most of the Oxford stuff, and, of course, the religious subtext about grace, and Catholicism. This is like The Jewel In The Crown being remade, without "India".

It hardly makes sense for the current director (even if he is an atheist) of this lamed new version to claim to be "anti-Catholic" - and for most of those involved to have intentionally avoided the original TV version, or, indeed, the novel itself, which is famously about opulence versus austerity. This seems like a self-inflicted wound - but not, at any rate, stigmata.

One of the current tragedies in the cultural life of Britain is that, while in America, where 90% of people believe in God, cultural works can be made, open to the possibility of a divine presence, here, in the UK, far too many in the media and culture industries are militantly anti-religious - neutering their ability to sensitively and robustly engage with most of human history, and culture. Since film is also about good box office, it seems the producers bungled, in turning over such a potentially erotic-if-religiose (and hence, popular) product to a being of less than exquisite imagination.
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