"Numbers, by candlelight"
Stanley Kubricks' Barry Lyndon is famous for its use of candle light, but did you ever notice that each candlelight scene has a number associated with it? Take a look at the photos below, posted in chronological order. You will see that, until the intermission, every significant person Redmond Barry encounters in candlelight has a number of candles associated with them, and that the number goes up by one each time we meet a new character.
First we see Barrys uncle with 3 candles...
Then Redmond meets a woman with 4 candles...
Potzdorf with 5 candles...
The Prince is illuminated by 6...
The aristocrat (who is engaging in a menage a trois?) has 7 candles
Barrys love, Lady Lyndon, is then seen with 8 candles
Then things change a little bit. We now see Lord Lyndon,except instead of there being 9 candles, there are 9 sets of candle holders, possible signalling his importance in this society. 9 is an important number of candles that we see here for the first of 3 times.
Interestingly, we see 9 candles a second time for just a moment, just as the Lord shrieks his dying breath.
The film then breaks here for intermission, and the numerical order ends, but the mystery of the candles continues...
But wait! There is one important character who has not being mentioned here, the Chevalier. He is also seen in candlelight, however, in the scene with the lord. This means that the numerical order of the candlelight scenes are broken up slightly.
But, he in the same scene with the Lord, who is marked with 7 candles, but who for some reason has 2 girlfriends with him. So if you had to guess how many candles will represent the Chevalier, how many would you guess?
Would 14 be a fair guess?
And there are the 14 candles. That might sound like a stretch but we will soon see the we have candles numbering 1 to 14 throughout the whole film, and no others.
The film restarts after the intermission with Reverend Runt. Runt is seen 2 candles.
This is very interesting, because there is another character with 2 candles I will mention soon. But first a word on Runt.
Barry Lyndon has 2 real enemies in the film, Lord Bullingdon and Reverend Runt. Bullingdon is obviously an enemy, but why Runt? A couple of reasons. Firstly, it is Runt who lets Barrys son Brian escape through his room, when he goes to see his new horse, the horse who ends up killing him. We dont know that he does this on purpose, put a cynical Kubrick would definitely be putting across the impression that Runt allowed Brian to leave, resulting inhis death. And something else happens to strengthen our belief.
Lady Lyndon is poisoned. The narrator says that she poisoned herself, but we know him to be an unreliable narrator, so should we believe him? And who do we see right before we see Lady Lyndon, crying in agony and screaming for help? Reverend Runt, who has just been told that his services will no longer be required and has been fired. So is it possible that he would poison Lady Lyndon to convince Lord Bullingdon to come back and get rid of the Redmonds? Very possible, as where do we see him next? With Lord Bullingdon.
And now we see 9 candles for the 3rd and final time. If Lord Lyndon had 9 candles, I think it is quite obvious which of all the other characters would have 9 candles too:
9 candles. So we see the Lord with 9 candles, then just as his souls departs this earth we see 9 candles, then his replacement Mr Barry Lyndon, has stepped into his shoes and now has 9 candles of his own.
(And 2 women. Looks like he learned something from the other Lord)
Next we have Lord Bullingdon
Lord Bullingdon, along with Reverend Runt, is one of Barrys 2 main enemies, so it is appropriate that Barry is framed between the two of them. Also, since they are two, it makes sense that they are both represented by 2. (Is Lord Bullingdon staring at the sheet music? Or is he staring at the flame?
Ok we're almost finished.
Next we have Lady Lyndon and Brian. Remember every photo here is in chronological order.
Only 5 candles...There goes the theory...But wait, what's the next candlelight scene? Maybe that will help us understand...
5 again! So would it be fair to take the 2 most important people in Barry life, both seen one after the other with 5 candles each, and add them together to make 10?
Ok, it's a stretch, but if we do, so far we have the numbers 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 and 14 represented by candles. So where is 1, 11, 12 and 13?
Thie next candlelight picture is a bit of a mystery. We see a representation of the whole wealthy society in this shot,rather than any individuals. We see 8 bunches of candles with 5 candles each totalling 40 candles.
There are 23 people at the table, 12 on one side and 9 on the other,with Barry and his wife on each end. The camera pans down a long table, this is the only shot where the camera does not stop on any number of candles
Finally we come to the final candlelight scene of the film. This scene is full of candlelight, while this shot is from its beginning.
It starts with the doors closed. We see 12 candles. Then the door opens and Barrys mother walks in, holding a candle.
This makes 13 candles while she is in the room. Since she is the only person in the film who ever holds a candle and moves one while she is walking, I think it is fair to say that her holding the candle on her own also makes one.
And there you have it! The numbers 1 to 14, represented by the famous candlelight (more or less, I know I stretched it!)
But what is the significance of this? Why would Stanley Kubrick use the seemingly arbitrary sequence of 1-14?
Is there anything significant about 1-14? What about 114?
A Clockwork Orange:
Welly welly well.
So we now have a third film of Stanley Kubricks containing the number 114.
Is there another way of confirming this? What if we added the numbers together?
We see 2 twice so add 4=87
That leaves the number 9, which we see 3 times as shown above, so +27=...
You will notice there is no 11 in this addition, just as there is no candlelight scene with 11 candles, however if you count the number of people encountered by Barry in candlelight, there are indeed 11 of them.
While it may seem a stretch to look at the film in this much detail, it's interesting that Kubrick, famous for his attention to detail would do something like this, which isnt noticeable on a first viewing, but adds subtle meaning to the film, especially the use of 9 for both Barry and the Lord he replaces, and framing candlelight Barry between his two enemines, both with a 2, and the 114 connection between his other films, which was something I didnt even realise when I started writing this. Barry Lyndon is full of amazing detail like this throughout the whole film, as are the rest of Stanley Kubricks films. To be continued.