Stanley Kubrick was a master of cinematography, and there can be no doubt about it. His pioneering strides with the use of a camera lens, lighting, composition and setting really mark his films out as some of the most important ever released.
An auteur in every sense of the word, Kubrick was primarily concerned with conveying the themes of his script to the utmost detail – but don’t ask Stephen King about that. This spirit flowed through his films, and you could watch almost every single movie without sound and still be blown away.
Kubrick started his creative life off as a photographer, and when you note this fact, it becomes very clear given his penchant for establishing a setting. The vistas he created were simply stunning, whether it be in monochrome or colour; they were a brilliant testament to the introspective human philosophy behind work. He had a vital understanding of the symbiotic relationship between the audio and visual, and as Kubrick began to properly realise his potential throughout the 1960s and ’70s, his use of environments to reflect the themes of his work became critical to his work.
Kubrick equated his films to that of popular music, in the sense that a Beatles record can be appreciated by both an Alabama truck driver and a Cambridge intellectual because their “emotions and subconscious are far more similar than their intellects”. In a 1975 interview with Time, the director expanded on his ethos: “The essence of a dramatic form is to let an idea come over people without it being plainly stated,” he said, adding: “When you say something directly, it is simply not as potent as it is when you allow people to discover it for themselves.”
This speaks volumes of his reasoning for establishing stunning scenes, where the backdrop says just as much – if not more – than the words. In this way, Kubrick was the master of pathetic fallacy. There is no better example of this in his filmography than 1975’s Barry Lydon.
A period drama recounting the exploits and downfall of a fictional 18th-century Irish rogue, aside from the film’s narrative and its iconic use of Handel’s ‘Sarabande from the Keyboard suite in D minor’ as a recurring motif, it is the beauty of its visuals that truly marks the film out as significant. The film was shot entirely on location in Britain, Ireland and Germany, and it required a cast and crew of around 170 people to move from location to location for a long eight-and-a-half months. This included 17 country houses and castles in the UK and Ireland alone that were used to convey the opulence of the class that Barry finds himself entrenched in. This, of course, perfectly displays Kubrick’s commitment to quality. He was so keen on conveying the essence of the time period that three elements of the film really comprise its visual excellence.
The first is its reflection of the lighting of the era. Many of the film’s scenes were shot entirely with candlelight, something that had never been achieved before. Secondly, many of the exterior shots for the film were dictated only by natural light, and it is brimming with images in which the light changes halfway through, owing to cloud movement. Together these create a natural feeling, bolstering the central themes.
Furthermore, many of the settings were largely based on William Hogarth paintings, one of the era’s most esteemed artists. For instance, the opening shot perfectly encapsulates the entire film. Barry Lyndon is a tale of fate vs consequence, and this is symbolised by the opening duel where the victor is chosen almost at random. The picturesque backdrop aided by the dull natural light creates an impression as if the scene was actually one of Hogarth’s paintings. It is a perfect introduction to a film centred around the 18th century and its almost obscene adherence to the concept of civility.
In many ways, Barry Lydon is the film that saw Kubrick’s cinematography reach its zenith. The story of the film’s production is just another that adds to the character of Stanley Kubrick as an auteur with a guiding philosophy — and one that got results.
Although some of the film was shot in Germany, helping to cultivate its realistic feel, as a significant chunk of the story is set in Prussia, this did not keep Kubrick from getting up to some of his old tricks. Many settings across Britain and Ireland were used for the scenes set in the old Prussia and Belgium.
In order further to understand the production process of Barry Lyndon a little better, we’re taking a look at five of the iconic locations used. Offering a thrilling historical insight into the old social landscape of 18th century Europe, these are just some of the marvellous locations that are worth a visit.
If you want a European jaunt in the same vein as the film’s protagonist, this is the film for you. Just remember to pack an umbrella.
A travel guide to the filming locations used in ‘Barry Lyndon’:
Glenpatrick, Waterford County, Ireland
Where else to start but with the one film’s most iconic vistas? Early on in the story, we witness the redcoats of the British army deliver a parade in front of Barry’s local community. Whilst the choreography of this is something to behold, it is the imposing natural structure behind the battalion of solider’s that stands out in the memory.
Surrounded by rolling hills, this scene looks like one that Tolkien would have devised for The Shire in Middle Earth. The majestic peak you see behind the soldiers is said to be Knockanaffrin, a part of the Comeragh Mountain range. A stunning yet harsh environment, this hinterland is a favourite of hikers worldwide. Featuring the glacial amphitheatre of Coumshingaun and other incredible sights, you’re sure to be stunned by the natural beauty.
Just make sure you pack your waterproofs. As clearly shown in the film, the weather is tempestuous, to say the least.
Schloss Ludwigsburg, Stuttgart, Germany
Hailed as the ‘Versailles of Swabia’, the Schloss Ludwigsburg or Ludwigsburg Palace, is a thing of opulent beauty.
Designed by Philipp Joseph Jenisch, baroque master Johann Friedrich Nette, and Rococo pioneer Donato Giuseppe Frisoni all at different points, Ludwigsburg Palace is a sprawling blend of influences. There is no wonder it has long been hailed as one of Western Germany’s most captivating historical delights, as every corner you turn is different.
Featuring ornate facades, blooming baroque gardens and a fashion museum, seven miles north of Stuttgart this is one of the city’s busiest attractions year on year. Brimming with things to do, you’ll easily spend a day immersed in its baroque/neoclassical aura.
It may seem familiar, as the courtyard is where Kubrick filmed the exterior of Balibari’s home. This is where the pivotal scene occurs when Barry breaks down and admits his deception, which forces him to become the Chevalier’s servant and accomplice, a critical plot point.
Dunrobin Castle, Scotland
Recognised by many as the “jewel in the crown of the Scottish Highlands”, Dunrobin Castle is a thing of almost fantastical charm. The most northerly of Scotland’s “great houses”, it is the largest in the Northern Highlands, containing a grand total of 189 rooms. One of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses, its history dates back all the way to the early 1300s.
Built to resemble the iconic silhouette of a French Chateau with its conical spires, the Castle’s neoclassical edge was influenced by none other than Sir Charles Barry, the designer of London’s Houses of Parliament.
The exterior of Dunrobin is where Barry and the Chevalier find themselves at the elegant spa in ‘Belgium’, where the protagonist first meets the Countess of Lyndon and her young son, Lord Bullingdon. The scene that truly kicks off his downfall, this scene is nothing short of iconic.
There is much to do in the area and it makes for a perfect weekend getaway. Situated on the east coast of the Northern Highlands, it overlooks the incredible Moray Firth. Furthermore, it is just north of the villages of Golspie and Dornoch. The latter is famed for its cathedral and Royal golf club.
Stourhead Gardens, Wiltshire, England
Featuring rolling hills, crystal blue water and classic architecture, covered in an array of flora, when Stourhead, Wiltshire was first opened in the 1740’s it was described as a “living work of art”. For anyone who’s a first time visitor, its characteristic meandering paths take you on a journey that offers you many surprises including ornate temples and bridges.
Its beauty is so mythological, you’re almost expecting the lady of the lake to appear at any given moment.
Given that it is a classical architectural feat, Stourhead contains a mesh of different influences. Roman, Gothic, Greek and Chinese, the gardens are one of Britains most unique. Opulent and wonderous, this is a perfect day out for anyone who wants to soak up the stereotypical character of Britain, the one that works like Pride and Prejudice helped to establish.
More importantly, the classical style was perfect for Kubrick. Seemingly entranced by Wiltshire using not one, but four filming locations in the county for the film, Stourhead is undoubtedly the most attractive. The gardens are used in the scene where Barry’s mother reminds him that his newfound fortune is based solely on his wife, and she encourages our chancer to seek a title in his own right.
The Guildhall, Lavenham, England
A Tudor building, the Guildhall in Lavenham, Suffolk, is where Kubrick set the inn towards the end of the film. It is featured in the scene where Barry endures the amputation of his wounded leg after his nervy duel with his archnemesis, the adult Lord Bullingdon. This is one of the scenes where fate finally starts to take its toll on Barry, and he gets his comeuppance for all of his scams.
A former wool-producing village, Lavenham is situated amongst the quaint elegant countryside of Suffolk. With over 300 of its buildings listed as historically significant, the village is like taking a step back in time.
Described as a “hub of independent boutique shops and galleries, fantastic restaurants, chic hotels and luxury holiday cottages” with “plenty of cafes and pubs”, you will be spoilt for choice. Additionally, it is a short ride to the coast for any beach lovers wanting to see Britain’s underrated East coast.
Interestingly, this is not the first time the village has appeared in a film. It was used in the 1968 cult classic Witchfinder General, in Pasolini‘s vivid take on The Canterbury Tales and as ‘Godric’s Hollow’ in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1.