“Barry Lyndon” (1975) offers a stunning arrangement of symmetries and doublings, of intense colors and perfectly realized tableaux copied from eighteenth-century paintings by Joshua Reynolds, Johann Zoffany, William Hogarth, Jean-Antoine Watteau, Thomas Gainsborough, and George Stubbs. Kubrick presents us with beautiful scenes, meticulously researched and shot entirely on location, to contemplate through a filter of technology.
Barry Lyndon’s rise and fall from grace are photographed in daylight and candlelight with a special lens that flattens the image, and with slow, sensuous zoom shots in calculated reverse. Maximum authenticity is transformed into emotional and temporal distance, a point of view on the Enlightenment, from which contemporary society emerged. These techniques establish a mental position from which we observe the eighteenth century as seen by the nineteenth, which in turn is seen by the twentieth. Kubrick invens a new conceptual painting in the form of cinema.