Brideshead Eviscerated – VILE and, incredibly, anti-Catholic

His Hermeneuticalness has posted about the truly vile new version of Brideshead Revisited or better Brideshead Eviscerated.

Do NOT see this vile movie.   Get the older production instead, which is wonderful and true to the book.

Barbara Nicolosi at Church of the Masses has a film review which may save you some time and money: Brideshead Eviscerated. She suggests that the anti-catholic slant of the film could be compared with making an adaptation of "To Kill a Mockingbird" that turned out savagely racist.  [Great analogy.]

Here is the example she cites as the most egregious:

In the book, the Flyte family basically opposes Julia’s engagement to Rex. In fact, the catchesis of the moral pygmy Rex Motram, who as a purely materialist capitalist is in Julia’s words, "half a man", takes up the whole mid-point of the book. The family is seriously worried about Rex’s lack of "spiritual curiosity," but Lady Marchmain respects her daughter’s freedom too much to interfere in her daughter’s marriage. Then, when it is discovered that Rex had been previously married and divorced, the Flyte family vigorously opposes the marriage and eventually Julia is cut off for leaving her faith to marry a divorced man.

In the movie, when Charles asks Julia why she married Rex she basically says that her mother forced her to do it because Rex was a rich Catholic.

Barbara’ article has plenty of quotations illustrating the anti-Christian bias of the screenwriter and asks:

Why would producers choose a writer who so completely despises the core themes of the source material to adapt them for the screen?

It’s a long time since I read Brideshead. Sounds as though I ought to re-familiarise myself now that the film has been released in the UK.

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21 Responses to Brideshead Eviscerated – VILE and, incredibly, anti-Catholic

  1. HGB says:

    And if you enjoy Brideshead Revisited you might dip into Waugh’s trilogy set during the Second World War. Same elevated style and very Catholic.

  2. dcs says:

    One could easily read the book in the time it takes to watch the BBC version. ;-)

  3. David Andrew says:

    No two ways about it . . . the British series with Jeremy Irons, Sir John Gielgud, Sir Lawrence Olivier, Anthony Edwards, et. al. is and always will be the adaptation of choice.

    No lefty Hollywood hack job could improve on the BBC screenplay, or the casting, or the acting, or the location, or. . . well, you get the picture.

  4. Geoffrey says:

    I just finished reading this book and it was great. I am looking forward to seeing the old BBC miniseries.

  5. Matthew M. says:

    David Andrew:
    For once, Hollywood was not the culprit. This was an all-England hack job.

    It’s a real shame, too – one of the writers (Andrew Davies) has been behind some fine adaptations of earlier English novels. If you’re a fan of Trollope, his “The Way We Live Now” was a wonderful treat.

  6. Sean says:

    IMO, the BBC-miniseries is the finest and highest example of what can be done on television. I remember watching it as a high-schooler, and then getting the book. I recently found it on DVD, and watched the whole thing in one sitting (about 14 hours, i think). It may be (with the obvious exception of the Red Sox winning two world series) the finest thing I have ever seen on television.

  7. Waugh was a great writer. He was a master with words. You won’t get the authentic Waugh even in the best dramatisation. You must read his books.

  8. Tim says:

    Not to be a fly in the ointment, but it merits note that the Jeremy Irons series included a most unacceptable bedroom scene among other stuff.

  9. leutgeb says:

    I’m with dcs. Good music in the BBC version, though.

  10. Romulus says:

    Tim, I’ll admit that the shipboard sex scene was unpleasant to watch, but I’d place it in the category of bad taste (iow, a directorial blunder), and not that of pornography. It’s unacceptable chiefly in that it’s overt and confrontational, lacking in delicacy and restraint: in this it is unfaithful to the incident’s presentation in the novel.

    Overall, I consider the series an admirable achievement that I don’t expect to see equalled anytime soon.

  11. jaykay says:

    The “Sword of Honour” trilogy referred to by HGB above is well worth reading, although it´s written in a mostly dark comedic vein. The description of the Requiem Mass for the father of the main character (Guy Crouchback, of an Old English catholic family) should be very moving for all on this blog.

  12. Matthew says:

    Sorry to be a real pedant, but the series is Granada (shown on ITV), not the BBC.

    The book and that series are fabulous. When I first read it, I thought the book was anti-Catholic, but that was before my conversion and before I read about Waugh’s faith. Now, re-reading it as a Catholic, I can see that it is precisely the opposite. I just love the simily of God’s grace acting as a twitch upon a thread.

  13. Antonio says:

    The book is amazing.

  14. leo says:

    I was very close to walking out I could not believe how anti catholic the film was , needless to say none of the marchmain woman have their heads covered in the chapel which had a tabernacle without a veil . The Extreme Unction was given by a priest who threw a long liturgie purple stole over his clerical suit hardly what would be in a sick call set.The final scene was the exact opposite of the novel

  15. Anthony Blanche says:

    My d-d-dears: To avoid the utterly t-t-travesty of Brideshead Eviscerated (hereafter “BE”) g-g-get for yourselves the Acorn Media version of the 1981 Brideshead Revisited (hereafter “BR” or “the REAL BR), released Oct 2006, the 15th anniversary edition. Quite faithful to the novel, in both versions of it.

    Waugh’s novel is, in fact, a revolt against the Age of Hooper and Rex Motrom; BE is a product of it. The modern temper is the g-g-g-great Western blight. It spots and kills everything it touches: It kills family life, it kills art, it kills the brain, and I do believe that it has killed the secular humanist c-c-clodhoppers who p-p-ut out BE. Killed as they are, we ought not fault them for their ignorance. If they knew ANYTHING about C-C-Catholic piety, they would NOT have filmed such t-t-terrible t-tripe.

    If the real BR has ANY weakness, it is that of understatement. When Flannery O’Connor defended her use of the g-grotesque, she argued that when people are spiritually deaf, one has to shout. BR, both the two versions of the book and this quite d-d-delicious DVD version of the t-telly show, abjures the grotesque for beauty, the stentorian for soft whispers. So I mustn’t b-blame the producers of BE if their product is a little insipid. So l-let me EXPLAIN it to you good plain people.

    The real BR’s popularity, given its Catholic theme presented to an un-Catholic and anti-Catholic world, is odd. Sebastian remarks that everything Catholics think important is different from other people. And indeed it is, given the current poisoned culture-of-death atmosphere, in this Brave New World of dysfunctional families and omnipresent license, where divorce is judged dandy, piety pejorative, sodomy adorable, and children worthy of butchery in the tens of millions using an Orwellian label for the crime. In such a climate, two errors of commission are inevitable. First, critics, those mass men in the Age of Hooper, have made too much of Waugh’s supposed upper class snobbery. Waugh did not hate the middle and lower classes; Waugh hated the modern world. His life and his art were a studied attempt to scorn, mock, and defy it, and all its works, and all its vain pomps. With BR he changed his usual strategy and contrasted baleful modernity to Castle Brideshead, with its “lowly kinship” to the Beatific Vision.

    Second, too much also has been made of Sebastian’s and Charles’ supposed homosexuality – too much even by the BR series’ producer. But then, can The Last Man in his Brave New World, soaked in soma, hardly appreciate friendship as a form of love at all, judging it instead to be only homoerotic? Doubtless next in line for utter incomprehension by Jasper, Samgrass, Motram, Mrs Arnold Frickheimer, Celia, et al. will be romance, marriage, parenthood, childhood, innocence, family. Point of fact: The real homosexual in the work is the Satan– making clear enough Waugh’s view on the matter.

    The Errors also of omission in BE are committed by their almost Invincible Ignorance of Catholic myth – and my “myth” I don’t mean “lies”, but a system of symbols that hang together. Lady Marchmain is piety without charity, Bridy faith without charity, Julia romance without charity, Charles friendship without charity. As for Sebastian’s flaw and fall, most folk nowadays would follow Julia’s first judgement: It must something chemical in him. But Cara, the foil of Lady Wisdom to Samgrass’ pedantic Folly, got it right without using the term: It’s something spiritual in Sebastian, or better said, the lack thereof. At the Ritz, God tells Charles the real problem with Sebastian: lack of fidelity to a Religious Vocation (“I don’t know what that means” says Charles, nor does the “modern” world), a Vocation to an Order that performs corporal works of charity, a Vocation Sebastian partly hears in rescuing Charles from his father and Kurt from his illness, Sebastian ending at least half way into the place where he belonged all alone. And the Satan figure in BR shows that evil is ultimately ridiculous.

    Not to know the legend of St. Sebastian is to miss the purport of the Satan’s quip “I should like to stick you full of bared arrows like a p-p-pin-cushion”. Not to know the story of Eden is to miss (1) the Satan’s very calling card: his stutter The Snake’s tongue; and (2) when God catches Charles and Sebastian sunbathing naked on the roof, and when Sebastian says “Go away [...]; We’re not decent”, she (She!) replies “Yes you are!” Once these Catholic allusions are grasped, Waugh’s comic tendency is more marked: going with the Satan to a homosexual bar, and taking a God out to dine at the Ritz. And secular sacraments: a Eucharist up in a pagan temple with claret precedes a baptism, by total immersion, in the fountain. The Jesuits aren’t spared Waugh’s wit, with the pig named Francis Xavier and a bear named Aloysius. Yet I suspect that Waugh is quite serious with the “six black Cordelia’s”, mocking not Cordelia’s piety but our incredulity.

    Cinema – even the small screen — talks with pictures: The winding staircase, a penitential Sebastian breaking down on the marble stairs leading up, or Charles going down twisting iron stairs with the Satan into an Infernal realm; the leitmotif of the door throughout the work: the garden door at the Botanical Gardens at Oxford, the door Charles can’t close in Venice, the door not answered to Sebastian’s rooms at Christchurch and Brideshead; or candles: In Part I, when the Tempter and Father of Lies blows one out, revealing him to be The Dark One; the quenched Lamp of the Presence in the chapel, later to be re-lit; and in Part II, at the dinner scene with Cordelia and Charles alone, the mirrored candelabra surrounding Cordelia, just as they do at the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
    So, my d-d-dears, k-k-keep away from the cinema and buy instead this DVD, and dash impetuously to your DVD player to pay homage at the shrine: ecstasy of the most ENNOBLING kind. And N-n-no, I will n-n-NOT buy you a drink!

  16. Fr Francis Coveney says:

    I’m afraid that the John Mortimer TV adaptation missed the main theme of Brideshead Revisited – the action of grace amongst a group of individuals. I remember too that Auberon Waugh, Evelyn Waugh’s eldest son, greatly resented the addition of the “obligatory” prolonged sex scene.

    One of the major casting failures of the TV series was the fact that Sebastian and Julia looked nothing like each other – whereas the novel remarks on their similarity.

    I have always thought that the climax of the novel is the conversion of Charles Ryder when Lord Marchmain is annointed on his deathbed.

    ‘I knelt too and prayed “O God, if there is a God, forgive him his sins, if there is such a thing as sin”………….I prayed more simply: “God forgive him his sins” and “Please God, make him accept your forgiveness”……..

    The hand moved slowly down his breast, then to his shoulder, and Lord Marchmain made the sign of the cross.

    Then I knew that the sign I had asked for was not a little thing, not a passing nod of recognition, and a phrase came back to me from my childhood of the veil of the temple being rent from top to bottom.’

    So Charles’ and Julia’s prayers are answered and Lord Marchmain dies reconciled to God – but they both realise that they can no longer live together.

    Charles (who is divorced) later becomes a Catholic realising that this commits him to a life of celibacy – ‘homeless, childless, middle-aged and loveless’ .

    Charles is a mirror image of Evelyn Waugh himself who was divorced when he was received into the Catholic Church by Fr Martin D’Arcy sj thinking that he like Charles was committing himself to a life of celibacy. (Later of course he obtained a declaration of nullity for this marriage.)

    Charles is billeted in Brideshead during the Second World War. Brideshead’s chapel (which had been closed) is now reopened and the Blessed Sacrament is there once again – and many soldiers pray there.

    The story concludes with Charles praying in the chapel ‘an ancient, newly-learned form of words’. As he leaves the chapel the second-in-command remarks:
    ‘You’re looking unusually cheerful today’.

    So Charles, like Augustine of Hippo, finds true happiness in the love that moves the sun and the other stars.

    Faced with so many people in our countries who promote a culture of death, it is interesting also to note one of Waugh’s throw-away lines. Hooper (who is Charles’s platoon-commander and one of the anti-heroes in the book) begrudges the patients in a mental hospital their freedom from the duties of the conscripted soldiers: ‘ “Hitler would put them in a gas chamber” he said; “I reckon we could learn a thing or two from him.”

    Sadly the TV adaptation concentrated on the superficial, the photogenic and the material and missed the whole point of the book – the world of faith, grace and redemption.

    It sounds like the film is much much worse. Stick to the novel folks.

  17. Fr Francis Coveney says:

    Incidentally, Evelyn Waugh dedicated his biography of St Edmund Campion sj to Fr D’Arcy.

  18. josephus muris saliensis says:

    This new film is quite ghastly, totally unconvincing, Lady Marchmain a travesty, both in terms of the Faith and socially. The details are dreadful, the whole directing ignorant of all that is important to the book. As a greater prelate in London said, after seeing it, “they were all so common.” What need have we of further comment?

  19. Janet Perry says:

    I would also note that the secular press, which really doesn’t care one way or the other for the Catholic theme of the book, mostly HATED the new movie. The reviews and articles I saw went out of their ways to point out that BE was little like the book and that the ITC version was so much better.

  20. Mark R says:

    There were a few technical things I would criticise, such as the camera work, in the short series. The script was written by well-known know-it-all atheist John Mortimer, yet it turned out good and faithful to the novel.

  21. If anyone is still following this thread, I would say re-read the excellent comments posted here by “Anthony Blanche” and Fr. Coveney. But above all, heed the words of Fr. Coveney : “Stick to {reading] the novel, folks”.