Bridesheads, 1981 vs. 2008

Brideshead Revisited

“Your arrival has emboldened me to ring for tea.”

“You have no medical knowledge. You are not in Holy Orders…”

“You might think, living in digs, that I don’t know what goes on in college. But I hear things.”

It’s from The Waste Land. Anthony Blanche recites part of the T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.

“I swear it’s a pleasure to clean up after him.”

“Why’d you do that?” “Oh. I dunno. Just good manners.”

“Cousin Melchior came up a cropper! …Don’t you miss your national game?”

“Rex Mottram doesn’t correspond to any degree of paganism known to the missionaries.”

Longtime readers know that we do fancy Brideshead Revisited.

The tale has many charms—as many, perhaps, as the Flytes themselves have.

Something possessed me to take the 2008 movie version out of the library. I had forgotten that knowledgeable individuals referred to that particular adaptation as “Brideshead Eviscerated.”

Not just because pikers turn up to play the roles once occupied by giants. Wait a minute—Sir Lawrence Olivier (a man of Byronic aura indeed) has been replaced by some pasty-faced roué? The cadaverous Casaubon of “Middlemarch” (Patrick Malahide) has replaced Sir John Gielgud? Okay: Emma Thompson. But Clair Bloom (Lady Marchmain in 1981) matches her point-for-point. Languid young Jeremy Irons has been replaced by a paler, clueless version of himself who doesn’t know how to smoke.

Brideshead Revisited miniseriesBut, the main thing, the main casting lacuna in this shambles of a 2008 movie: Beautiful Anthony Andrews, the Adonis whose measureless attractiveness made all the bizarre love triangles of the 1981 BBC version make sense—the amusing young gentleman, who believably crawled around the floor looking for Kurt’s lost cigarettes—unforgettable, bewitching Anthony Andrews has been replaced by some effeminate young man who looks like Morrisey’s emaciated nephew. Please.

But that, dear reader, ain’t all.

Evelyn Waugh loved God, and God’s religion, ie. Catholicism.

He loved it because it hurt, because it’s true, because God’s grace really does operate on us through the sacraments. The novel unfolds the unconquerable love of God that has pounded its way through all the human centuries with the same relentlessness with which Father Mackay keeps coming back to visit Lord Marchmain on his deathbed.

Now, to be honest with you, I find the novel overly heavy. Waugh was a master of depressing little details. The 1981 miniseries, in my opinion, adds some panache to the story–but still I find the later episodes too dreary to deal with. I simply cannot endure Charles Ryder, neither the character in the novel, nor the endlessly smoking Jeremy Irons.

But, nonetheless, the theme of Brideshead Revisited, novel and faithful 1981 adaptation, shines majestic and unmistakable: the ancient faith conquers. It conquers every complexity of life, swallowing it all up in an ocean of beauty. The very act of creation is a divine mercy, and the arcadia of our youth will endure, as soon as we let go of everything we grasp so tightly, so desperately, so selfishly. (And this will also result in our having good manners while we continue our short sojourn in this veil of tears.)

This sorry excuse for a 2008 version grasps self-righteously, ham-handedly, and nonsensically at a delusion. It engages in the ridiculous conceit that the Flytes Waugh created can be charming–at least Julia, Sebastian, and papa anyway–without Catholicism being true.

The Flytes are endlessly charming, all of them. Catholicism is true.

Holy Family & Gnomon Vaticano

The Lord delivers many graces on a Christmas Sunday.

But, alas, we do lose Holy Family Sunday in such years. If you yearn for a Holy Family sermon from the archive, you may click a link…

Fr. M.D.W. Holy Family homily 2008 and 2009.

…Speaking of talks from December ’08:

Did you know that the Vatican obelisk in St. Peter’s Square functions as the gnomon of an annual sundial?

At noon, the shadow of the obelisk falls on a granite meridian. Discs mark points along the stone line. The shadow falls on the disc farthest from the obelisk on the winter solstice; it falls on a disc near the base on the summer solstice. Discs in between mark the points at which the sun enters the various signs of the zodiac.

Exiting Earlier

Sean Evans and St. Johns flushed the Hoyas
Sean Evans and St. Johns flushed the Hoyas

Two years ago, Georgetown played until the day before Palm Sunday. They made it to the Final Four in the NCAA tournament, then lost to Ohio State on March 31.

Last year, the Hoyas played until Easter Sunday, when they suffered a bitter loss to Davidson in the second round on March 23.

This year, the Hoyas couldn’t even manage to play through two weeks of Lent.

Perhaps John Thompson III will write a book someday about the 2008-2009 season (or at least a nice long blog post). The defenestration of this year’s team is one of the inexplicable mysteries of sporting history. Youth and inexperience does not explain it. Some dark force has been at work.

May God save us all. Go Caps!

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