Arts & Entertainment

Scene Discussion: Barry Lyndon

Martin Scorsese

Lesson time 4:41 min

Martin analyzes the first scene of Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. Watch and learn as Martin breaks down the use of natural lighting and voice-over. Discover how every image in the scene embodies the structure of an entire historical moment.

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Topics include: Scene From Barry Lyndon (1975) Directed by Stanley Kubrick


A whole thing here, of course, is establishing a pace and a mood and a context of the period. And that has to do with the behavior of the people in the frame, the pace of the camera pulling back from the statue, and the use of music. It's a scene that somehow-- I remember upon first seeing this, because of the use of natural light, the beginnings of the voiceover that doesn't intrude in the picture, but adds to the world of the film is depicting. First love. Want a change it makes in a lad. What a magnificent secret it is that he carries about with him. The tender passion gushes instinctively out of a man's heart. The behavior of the actors, and particularly the whole piece and this cut to this meeting close up. The look in her eyes. Killarney. Now-- This whole piece kind of has a-- it's a wonderful example of a kind of excruciating enjoyment of the withholding of the sexuality. And this is done through the very slow pacing compositions, the look in her face. And also sets the entire tone for the film in terms of the behavior of the character's, behavior of the actors. And once again, I can't express enough the use of the imagery to evoke 18th century. The 18th century, 18th century paintings because in here, of course, is directing everything. She has a kind of single- minded approach to everything here, in this scene. You know, she's ruthless. --If you do not find it. [MUSIC PLAYING] The use of natural light places you in the emotional and psychological state of the characters. Every image embodies the structure of an entire society and the savagery that it contains. Immediately, from the first scene, you have such a powerful understanding of how people behaved and related to each other. I cannot find it. You haven't looked properly The deliberateness of the dialogue and the pauses between the sentences, it takes you back, like a time machine, into another way of living and thinking because nothing was fast around them. It was all slow and intense. I cannot find it. [MUSIC PLAYING] I'll give you a hint. I think the filter on the two shot has to do more with conscious effort to evoke painting, there's no doubt. [MUSIC PLAYING] I feel the ribbon. [MUSIC PLAYING] Why are you trembling? [MUSIC PLAYING] At the pleasure-- She talks about trembling, but the whole scene is trembling in that way. And you really feel, here, the angle changes, setting up-- it's a beautiful light, still on her, but it really is setting up the light for Ryan O'Neal's face here, and the kiss. But the key to this whole scene is the excruciating enjoyment of the trembling. As an authority to take a film like this and have the command of that piece of a narrative film, and demand this from an audience. You know, it doesn't seem that far, that far out of the norm for Stanley Cooper, particularly because he established this kind of concentration of v...

About the Instructor

Martin Scorsese drew his first storyboard when he was eight. Today he’s a legendary director whose films from Mean Streets to The Wolf of Wall Street have shaped movie history. In his first-ever online film class, the Oscar winner teaches his approach, from storytelling to editing to working with actors. He deconstructs films and breaks down his craft, changing how you make and watch movies.

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Martin Scorsese

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