Distance Listening: Musical Anachronism in Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon
Keywords:Kubrick, Barry Lyndon, musical anachronism
AbstractIt has long been recognised that Barry Lyndon deploys a range of anachronisms both visual and musical. The visual anachronisms have been the subject of serious and stimulating investigation by scholars including Ralf Michael Fischer and Tatjana Ljujić, but I will argue that there is a much richer deployment of musical anachronism in the film than the critical discourse has recognised thus far. The many and varied musical anachronisms to be found in Barry Lyndon, which I will present in detail, in fact make a significant contribution to the film’s explorations of history, representation and the relation between appearance and reality. Anachronism undermines the claim of a fictional work to represent a past time by underlining the fact that it was constructed at a later date – it presents an apparent contradiction. This fact means that an examination of musical anachronism in Barry Lyndon also provides an opportunity to investigate the way Kubrick’s film deliberately puts multiple apparent contradictions into play. These include the relations between immediacy and distance, performance and intimacy, and also completion and incompletion. All these contradictions support the film’s pervasive theme, which, I will argue, is that of pretence. Despite their subtlety, then, anachronistic musical effects in Barry Lyndon can be shown to bear upon the very heart of what the film is about.
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