07/28/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"Brideshead Revisited" Revisited In New Film

THE images from the 11-episode mini-series are still vivid, 27 years later. Louche young Oxford students in crisp linen suits (and one teddy bear) drinking endless cocktails. A spectacular country estate, dripping with treasures and crackling with religious, sexual and dynastic tensions. A delicately beautiful Jeremy Irons.

It is those lingering memories, even more than Evelyn Waugh's novel, that anyone attempting to turn "Brideshead Revisited" into a feature film for the first time naturally has to contend with. And so as not to contaminate his approach Julian Jarrold, the director, studiously avoided the mini-series -- all that elegiac emotion, spread out over 659 languorous minutes -- and returned to the book.

"It exposed some of the myths I'd had about 'Brideshead,' " Mr. Jarrold said of his rereading. "I'd had the memory of it being a nostalgia trip about the passing of English life and a bygone era, a glorification of aristocracy -- about people wearing odd clothes and poncing around Oxford." That was part of it, he said. But there was also a bite and a sharpness that are as relevant now as they were in 1945, when the novel was published.

"One of the reasons for the book's popularity is, it is an archetypal type of story of this young individual from a poorer, less interesting background who is welcomed into this beautiful, magical, alluring kingdom with wonderful, magical people," Mr. Jarrold said. "And then he begins to realize that everything is not what it seems."

The film, which is to be released on Friday, is set in the 1920s, '30s and '40s and stars Matthew Goode as Charles Ryder, the unworldly student whose friendship with the aristocratic Lord Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw) introduces him to a whole new world of money, class privilege, deep happiness and deep despair. Castle Howard, an estate in Yorkshire, stands in for Brideshead, home to Sebastian and his family, a symbol of a dying way of life and a character in itself.

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