A charming inside joke. In 1975, Stanley Kubrick came to Ireland to shoot a historical epic. Against the backdrop of the shooting of Barry Lyndon, a young extra and a director’s assistant fall in love. Can their love survive a perfectionist director, inclement weather, sketchy relatives, the troubles, a jealous writer, and a snarky narrator? You’ll have to watch Kubrick by Candlelight to find out.
Writer/Director David O’Reilly does a fantastic job of copying Kubrick’s style on what must have been a very modest budget. Carefully, painstakingly crafted shots creating a series of callbacks to the master’s work. The visuals themselves becoming jokes and callbacks to Kubrick’s impressive catalog.
But Kubrick by Candlelight isn’t just a joyful celebration of symmetrical shots and long tracking. There are a few problems. Such as the acting. Particularly among the supporting cast. But then if you’re going to pay for the inimitable Brian Cox to do your narration, you might have to find some places to save money in the budget.
“Against the backdrop of the shooting of Barry Lyndon, a young extra and a director’s assistant fall in love…”
The love story itself is fairly charming, but also quite basic and sparse. Really it is only there to provide the impetus for the avalanche of Kubrick references. The characters are a bit cliché. The charming but uncouth commoner and the haughty but willing lady. If you strip away everything but the love story you’d really only be left with about five minutes of the story.
And the humor. Usually, I loathe self-aware comedy, but I feel like I have to make an exception for Kubrick by Candlelight. I have to forgive the main character having conversations with the narrator, the recontextualizing of famous Kubrick scenes, and even the slow pan to show a harp player during a love scene. She looks right at the camera and winces because it breaks the reality. I have to forgive them all because I laughed at all of them.
But, I have to ask, who is Kubrick by Candlelight actually for? I am very familiar not only with Barry Lyndon but also all of Kubrick’s films. I get the jokes because I get the references. I assume it would be the same with your typical film-festival-goers. And this film did very well at film festivals. But, if you showed it to someone who had never heard of Stanley Kubrick, would they enjoy it as much as I did?
“…David O’Reilly understands how to craft a joke and put together a narrative…”
Nothing about Kubrick by Candlelight works if you aren’t in on the joke. Not the humor, not the narrative, nothing. And, David O’Reilly does such a wonderful job of copying Kubrick’s style you get no sense of his. No idea as to who he is as a filmmaker. In the end, all you have is a long-form comedy sketch that only cinephiles would get.
That being said, David O’Reilly understands how to craft a joke and put together a narrative. Looking at his IMDB page you see that he’s been in the industry for a while (not as a director), so hopefully he’ll be able to make the contacts he needs to do more projects. I can only hope that in his next piece, we get to see more of his style.
9 out of 10 if you’re a Kubrick fan
1 out of 10 if you’ve never heard of him
"…9 out of 10 if you’re a Kubrick fan. 1 out of 10 if you’ve never heard of him ."