On re-watching Brideshead Revisited

We’ve just finished watching the sumptuous 1982 Granada TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisted, and this time, Ms Thirteen watched it with us.

I don’t know what Evelyn Waugh had in mind as he wrote the book, and really, I don’t care about his intended meaning, if any. ‘Though I am impatient with most post-modernism, I am quite taken with the idea that writing is completed by the reader, and ultimately, it is the reader’s reaction to the work that matters most.

As ever, I found the early episodes very beautiful, if nostalgic. Oxford was glorious, and the lifestyle of the great house was fabulous, for the privileged few. Really, I drooled my way through the series, enjoying the splendour of the architecture and the clothes and the art.

But this time round, in the final few episodes, instead of agonising with Julia, I simply got terribly impatient. For god’s sake, I thought (and yes, that is intentional), seize love!

Instead, she was trapped by the Catholic church into rejecting the man who loved her, and like her sister and brothers, she was defeated by the church. No partnership, no children, no connection. Those last few episodes are a savage indictment of the Catholic church of the 1930s.

Ms Thirteen was very disappointed by the way the story ended. We asked her what she thought about it all.

“Wow,” she said. “Don’t be a Catholic.”

“There’s more to it than that,” said Mr Bee. “What do you think the deeper ideas might be?”

She thought for a moment. “Really, really, really, don’t be a Catholic.”


3 comments on “On re-watching Brideshead Revisited

  1. Mindy says:

    I wanted to get that version but couldn’t find it on DVD.

  2. Will says:

    The purpose of the book is to explain Waugh’s own conversion to Catholism. It is a lament for the passing of the ‘old world,’ and expresses the author’s doubts about the new; the “age of Hooper.” The central motif is the house, Brideshead, which represents Europe. The story opens in WW2 and the house is in bad shape, misused, damaged, it’s people scattered; Charles recalls it’s former splendor and is depressed. But a light still burns in the chapel, and it is that symbol of continuity that he clings to, despite all the harm religion has caused in the world. He ceases to question God’s purpose, just accepts what is, and finds contentment. “I found it this morning, burning anew among the old stones.” “You’re looking unusually cheerful today,” said the second-in-command.”

  3. Tamara says:

    I must say, I loved the series and the book, but I just do not get why Charles/Waugh converted to Catholism, when it is depicted as so cruel and lonely. Maybe I should give it another go?

    Too apprehensive to see the recent movie adaptation.

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