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Brideshead Revisited (1981)


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Episode 2: "Home and Abroad"

Charles Ryder and his University friend Sebastian Flyte are enjoying their Summer break at Brideshead Castle, Sebastian's family home. The rest of the family is away for the summer and the two men are left alone except for the servants. They raid the wine cellar and spend many nights sampling many different types of wine and getting drunk. Charles is inspired by the castle to paint a mural on its walls. Their solitary idyll is disturbed when the local agricultural show is held on the grounds. Sebastian and Charles are sunbathing nude on the roof when they are surprised by Sebastian's sister Cordelia.

Later that evening, Charles meets Lord Brideshead, Sebastian's older brother. He tells them that the family chapel in the castle will have to be closed, which greatly upsets Cordelia. The family is devoutly Catholic and Cordelia is shocked to discover that Charles professes himself an agnostic. Sebastian invites Charles to go on a two-week holiday to visit his father in his palazzo in Venice. Charles is overwhelmed by the beauty of Venice and of the grand style in which Lord Marchmain lives. At breakfast, Charles meets Cara, Lord Marchmain's elegant and charming mistress. She takes the two men on a sightseeing trip and, using her local connections, is able to get them to see practically anything they want, travelling by gondola from one beautiful location to another.

For the first time, Charles begins to reflect on the power and importance of religious faith. Cara talks to Charles shortly before he and Sebastian are due to go back home. She tells him that she approves of the romantic friendship that he and Sebastian share, as long as it does not last too long. She confides that Sebastian's father doesn't really love her at all, but that he needs her because he so loathes his wife. This is why he lives in Venice and refuses to return to England. She warns him that Sebastian, like his father, is dominated by his hatred for his mother, Lady Marchmain. Sebastian, she says, is in love with his own childhood. She warns Charles against Sebastian's excessive drinking, which he also shares with his father. Charles and Sebastian return to England to begin their next term at Oxford.