Oh, God, no.

[UPDATE: Fixed the Austen reference. Thanks, Lindsay. Mea culpa.]

You know, I had to give props to the Keira Knightly Pride and Prejudice. I even liked the new(ish) Peter Pan. But this is just awful. The soundtrack should tell you everything you need to know – “I know! Let’s take Waugh’s novel of faith and turn it into a Patricia Highsmith web of sex and betrayal!”

I’m sad now.


  1. Yick.

    The story is not even recogizable.

    And Knightly was in Pride and Prejudice.

    (As a girl, I simply had to point that out.)

  2. “Sad”?? Try “speechless with rage.” Miramax’s vendetta against all that is Holy and True goes on, even under new management. Why, oh why, couldn’t it be THEIR backlot that turned to smoke and rubble?

  3. Anonymous says

    If the movie is true to the trailer, it is what I imagine you would get if Waugh was asked to write a satire of one of his own novels.

  4. Waugh vetoed at least one proposal for turning Brideshead into a movie in the 50s because of the hatchet job Hollywood was prepared to inflict upon his text. He lost a very great deal of money, but found the script so appalling he refused permission.

    I’ve watched the trailer for this new movie and it looks like risible rubbish. Anyone with even the slightest interest in Waugh will know how false this is to the original. But a further question arises: why would anyone think they could improve on the original 1981 production with Jeremy Irons et al? That was simply splendid, and surely everything thereafter will pale in comparison.

  5. Santiago says

    It might be rubbish, but I still stand on the principle that film and novel are completely different forms and that the filmmaker owes the novelist nothing. The film should never try to be some sort of translation of the text, it should be something completely new. Unfortunately, the “something completely new” here is not very good, but I don’t think anyone should ever blame a filmmaker for not being faithful to the source novel. He shouldn’t have to be. It’s an unfair standard. Tarkovsky wasn’t faithful to “Solaris” in Solaris, and nobody complained except the guy who wrote “Solaris.”

  6. Santiago says

    …and I started thinking this way when I noticed that Children of Men is a brilliant film but that people were so busy condemning Cuaron for “secularizing” the story that they missed the fact that his film was effing brilliant.

  7. Eoin Suibhne says

    Ick, indeed. What an abomination.

    …the filmmaker owes the novelist nothing.

    What utter nonsense. The filmaker owes the novelist everything! If it were not for the novelist, the filmaker would have no film to make — or in this case — unmake.

    The film should never try to be some sort of translation of the text, it should be something completely new.

    Then why bother with the text at all? This is nothing but theft and false advertising.

  8. Santiago says

    Well, I guess he owes the novelist the source material for his film, but usually this debt is paid up in monetary transaction. What I want to protect is the idea that the film is an entirely new work of art. It’s one thing to say, “This film version of Brideshead is crap,” and I would probably agree with you; but to use the argument that “It should have been faithful to the source material” is unfair. Shakespeare wasn’t faithful to his source material. Tarkovsky got into a struggle with the authors of the novels behind SOLARIS and STALKER. And no one complained when the tables were turned: when Johnny Cash baptised (brilliantly, in my opinion) Trent Reznor’s song “Hurt,” by changing the tone and only one word: “Crown of shit” became “Crown of thorns.” The song took on a completely new meaning, and it became a completely new song. But the artist needed the freedom to break from the source material. So be angry at this director, but don’t deny him the freedom that he deserves as an artist.

  9. Santiago, you make your point well. I remember when The Painted Veil came out that many said it was superior to Maughm’s story.

    But, this trailer is scary. It seems the film lacks even a basic knowledge of the text. IMDB’s comment box has many seething. One IMDB ‘insider’ said that they put Charles and Julia’s affair before they are wed. Whubba?

    Talk about missing the point.

    (And i obviously know that an IMDB “insider” is perhaps not as knowledgeable as they believe)

    So, to see it or not? That is the question.


  10. angelmeg says

    What is even more sad about this “film” is that there was no need to make it.

    There already was a very well made 13 hour version of Brideshead made for BBC by Grenada back in the 80’s. If you get the chance don’t bother going to see this film, just go out and rent or buy the mini-series and watch it instead. Or even better, read the novel.

  11. Cubeland Mystic says

    Don’t judge a book by its trailer.

    (designed for return on investment ROI)

    Santiago, your arguments sound vaguely familiar. I wonder where I’ve heard them before?

    I’d say the audience expectations deserve some respect when making the transition to this medium. My position is a little more moderate than yours perhaps. Film has different requirements. I could write a story that takes place in a person’s mind. Like say that person needed to count or say a prayer to initiate mind-a-tude. A total mental isolation. The film might need to be done out loud to let the audience know. The mind-a-tude stuff may be huge in the book, but on film it might not work well. After 40 minutes of other important voice over, another 20 minutes of mind-a-tude might be ridiculous on film.

    The net effect would be that the purists hate your guts for making mind-a-tude scenes audible. However, by making them audible the film is a hit, if you didn’t you lose the millions invested and are waiting tables again.

    There’s real consequences for these decisions. Sorry for the tortuous example.

  12. Anonymous says

    mind-a-tude? that’s hysterical…..i agree with you guys. i don’t think a film “needs” to be true to the book. it’s not a requirement. however, it is disappointing when a movie destroys a book. sad? yes. bad? not necessarily. i have been listening in on the LOTR discussions, i think the same is true. yes, jackson does miss out on a lot of the subtlety but….he has a grand vision of the book which he adapts very very well to the screen. can’t a film be a separate vision based on the book? let the book be what it is and judge the film for what it is. i think LOTR was really written like the Iliad, with the intent to be read aloud. it is amazing to read these books out loud. talk about getting things you didn’t even when you just sat down and read it alone. it’s one thing to READ the description of the fireworks at the party….you can’t really capture that in the movie just because the visual medium is so much different than the auditory. the same is true with the narnia movies too. i agree with the person who said alot got missed there…..i felt as an audience, we had no idea why caspian was running initially. that was all too chopped up and not well drawn out. (but, caspian was so darn cute it made up for alot in the movie!) anyway. right to all who said, no one will top the first brideshead movie-don’t even bother. and do read the book if you haven’t. it’s fabulous. and no movie really does that justice. mcm

  13. Anonymous says

    i have a philosophical question for you matt, or cube or whatever other writer might have time or inclination to answer-or you may just say who cares?
    how much of what a writer writes, does he want to leave “open” to the mind of his reader? i mean, isn’t part of the problem we have with movies is, that is just one quys imaginative interpretation of the text? is there some necessary fluidity, such that when each person reads a book he kind of brings himself to it and his own experiences? doesn’t a painting effect each individual differently? subjectively? is a book meant to be this way? or not? mcm

  14. Matthew Lickona says

    Any work of art worth its salt – that is to say, any work of art that doesn’t descend into lecturing and ideology – leaves plenty of room for interpretation. Amen to that – a novel tells you what happened, not what to think. BUT, I think there is a real difference between interpretation and doing violence to the text – that is, interpreting it in such a way that it flat-out contradicts or ignores certain elements in the story.

  15. Santiago, and to a lesser exent Cubeland Mystic, I can’t understand your reasoning. Saying that a guy who is making a movie called Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, with the same title all the same characters as Waugh’s book, has no responsibility to be true to Waugh’s story is akin to saying a man doesn’t really have to be true to the woman he married. If for no other ideal than a feeling of fraternity toward another artist, one ought never to to take another man’s art and mutate it to fit one’s own vision. It’s intellectual stealing. If you don’t like Waugh’s story enough to be faithful to it but do, write your own. You can even loosely base it on Waugh’s the way Brigid Jones was based on Austen. I’ve got no problem with that. But the people making this movie are gravy training off of Waugh’s fame while not even showing him the respect he deserves. Even in the trailer, Waugh’s texts are mutilated.

    BTW, Lickona, Kiera Knightley’s Pride and Predjudice was pretty weak, especially compared to the A&E (and Austen’s Book.)

  16. Cubeland Mystic says

    MCM, When I write something I fully intend to leave things open. The intention is that the reader participates in the story. They bring their own subjectivity to the experience. The reader has a part to play too. Matt says we tell the story. True enough, but the theater in which we tell the story and you develop your own thoughts is built by the writer. I accept responsibility for your experience.

    Matt, (or anyone else) do you accept responsibility for the reader’s experience in your theater?

    Ernie’s criticism of the LOTR films is certainly valid. There were some really bad moments in the films. As a complete whole, I think they enhance the book. AC’s criticism of Narnian movies is also good.

    Film is a different form which has different problems, and requires different solutions. You cannot film your way out of technical problems like you write your way out. Like the giving of Galadriel’s hair to Gimli. Huge problem on film, elegant in the book.

    I look forward to how Endo’s “Silence” is going to be handled on film. Coming to a theater near you.


  17. Cubeland Mystic says


    I don’t really disagree. I have not read the novel. Nor did I see the Iron’s version. I will try to read the novel, its on the 20 year reading list.

    On principle, I agree with parts of all your arguments on this thread. I tend to moderate somewhere between you and Santiago on this thread. It’s not really accurate to compare it to marriage. It’s more like painting a sculpture, or sculpting a painting. In your painting of David, if you add a pair of gym shorts, that would be pretty bad. If you added something more appropriate like a leather girdle or something maybe a little like armor that might assuage the moderates like me. My taste is art is probably more medieval than most, but I can adjust for the purposes of analogy.

    I guess it all depends on the work done in both mediums, and the extent of perceived damage.

  18. Santiago Ramos says

    I guess Cubeland Mystic and Ernesto have a point when it comes to “audience expectations” and riding Waugh’s gravy train. In a commercial film, which is marketed to a great extent as a sort of “incarnation” of a very popular novel, I guess the director has a sort of moral responsibility to give the people the product that they are told they are going to get. The same goes for the Narnia films — people go there to see their books “come to life,” as it were (though as a lover of novels I think that’s largely BS). But notice that someone like Guillermo del Toro, who has positioned himself higher up on Parnassus than most Hollywood directors, refused to direct The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe precisely because he wasn’t allowed to change Lewis’ story (he didn’t want Aslan coming back from the dead).

    Then again, that’s commercial cinema. If we are talking about auteurs, then freedom is of paramount importance.

    Who here is complaining about the fact that PT Anderson changed a lot of Upton Sinclair’s novel, Oil!, in his movie?

  19. notrelatedtoted says

    “Who here is complaining about the fact that PT Anderson changed a lot of Upton Sinclair’s novel, Oil!, in his movie?”

    No one, but that’s because the movie was titled, “Let There Be Blood.”

    In general, I agree with the principle that the filmmaker shouldn’t be bound to a pedantic re-hashing of the source material. And, I would agree that it is unfair to say a movie fails simply because it wasn’t true to the text.

    But the filmmaker has to be honest – there is a certain point at which the filmmaker should say “this movie is BASED on that, but it is its own creature.”

    \\Englishmen in Hollywood, drinking their G&T’s and complaining about where their paychecks come from….I’ll bet Waugh is having a good laugh over this.

  20. Relax, everybody.

    Look, we are readers. We want the book.

    Nobody answered me (typical, I am a middle child)—
    Will you see it?

  21. Eoin Suibhne says


    Regarding your point that the film is an entirely new work of art, I believe Matthew (“there is a real difference between interpretation and doing violence to the text”), Ernesto (“one ought never to to take another man’s art and mutate it to fit one’s own vision”), and others have answered ably, and as I would.

    This trailer clearly shows no respect to the novel. To the contrary, Cash’s remake of Reznor’s “Hurt” is brilliant precisely because it pays respect to the original. I agree with you that Cash’s use of “thorns” makes it “new,” but it does not turn the song into something wholly unrecognizable. It’s a subtle, yet powerful twist that draws its power from its subtlety; it does no harm to the original like this movie does, or like Jackson did to LOTR, or as del Toro would have done to LW&W.

  22. Matthew Lickona says

    Probably not. Beyond matters of source texts, there’s a vibe to the trailer that I find repugnant and a little sordid. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

  23. Santiago says


    I probably won’t see it — I still have to watch the BBC version.


    That distinction is very subtle and very useful, but perhaps the weakness lies in the word “damage.” CHILDREN OF MEN was completely reinterpreted by Alfonso Cuaron, but I don’t think that this caused damage to the novel — I see them as coexisting peacefully. Perhaps a compromise we could reach is this: when the filmmaker’s interpretation radically departs (“radically” meaning that it breaks with one of the fundamental plot points or characters in the story), then he should use a new title for the film, as PT Anderson did with THERE WILL BE BLOOD.

  24. Anonymous says

    i agree that there is a definite problem with marketing something that is wholly different from the text, as the text. i suppose we will have to see the movie to see if this is true-it’s hard to tell from a trailer-trailers are made to look sordid, that’s what draws people in. it’s hard to tell whether anything in the trailer is relevant to the movie at all. my impression is, they have completely left out the RE in revisited. it looks like brideshead visited. not RE visited. which is a very important aspect of the book. i am now going to read the book again. because the trailer does make me want to read it again….so summer reading. however, i still maintain that, as matt and cube said, there is some room for interpretation when reading or adapting to script. keira knightly? completely completely wrong for pride and prejudice. but, hey, some people liked it. i guess, for research purposes, i will have to go see this movie. mcm

  25. Anonymous says

    i agree with santiago-new title-brideshead visited.

  26. notrelatedtoted says

    Forget about Brideshead. I need to know if I should see Sex in the City.

  27. Anonymous says


    It’s hard to know definitively from the trailer, but I don’t think this movie will have any CGI insects waging battle against each other, so I’ll probably pass.


  28. Cubeland Mystic says


    Heck yeah I’m gonna see it, that babe on the divan is hot!

    As far as Sex and the City goes, you name the theater girlfriend and I’m there. What are you wearing?

  29. Mark Thomas says

    It is indeed akin to false advertising. There’s a difference between “based upon” and “loosely based upon” and “inspired by.” A new title would be a good idea. Except I think the whole point in making this was precisely to revise BR. In other words, to make it gay. It looks for all the world here like Lady Marchmaine is Mother F*g-hag, punishing Charles for f***ing her daughter instead of her son. “All you ever wanted was my sister!” screeches the flaming Sebastian. Good God. I think someone here already used the word risible. ‘Tis.

  30. notrelatedtoted says

    Cubeland – I think I’m washing my hair that night.

  31. Eoin Suibhne says

    Perhaps a compromise we could reach is this: when the filmmaker’s interpretation radically departs (“radically” meaning that it breaks with one of the fundamental plot points or characters in the story), then he should use a new title for the film…

    On that, I can agree happily.

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