In 1974, the most austere of the major filmmakers, Robert Bresson, released his version of the tale of Lancelot and Guinevere. Not surprisingly, Bresson's stripped-to-the-bone adaptation eschews the traditionally heroic, spectacular, fabulous, and exaltedly romantic aspects of the legendary
saga in order to lay bare the confusion and pain within the human soul.
The knights of the round table have returned empty-handed from their quest for the Holy Grail. Lancelot (Luc Simon) the knight and young Queen Guinevere (Laura Duke Condominas) continue to carry on a clandestine affair behind the back of King Arthur (Vladimir Antolek-Oresek). Urged by Arthur to
cultivate the friendship of the other nights, Lancelot offers his hand to the devious Modrick (Patrick Bernard) but is rebuffed. Gawain (Humbert Balsan), Arthur's nephew, urges his friend and ally to fight Modrick, but Lancelot declines, even though he is told that the other knights are shifting
their allegiance from him to Modrick. Though he announces that he will not participate in an upcoming tournament, Lancelot appears there in diguise, and proceeds to win the jousting events. En route to the contest, Modrick tells Arthur that Guinevere and Lancelot are lovers. After Lancelot,
wounded from the jousts, disappears into the forest, the other knights presume he is dead. Guinevere, however, believes that her lover is alive and will return to rescue her, possibly from execution as an adulteress.
Bresson's unrelenting minimalism carries over into every aspect of the production, most conspicuously in the flat, emotionless line readings of his amateur performers, the profusion of low-angled shots, and a modest soundtrack, heightened by the almost total absence of background music. This is
one of the few film of its kind that never stoops to vulgarity and refuses to honor the genre's most cherished supposition: that all medieval people were animals. Though unwilling to render his characters as superhuman or godlike, Bresson never wallows in the mud he photographs. In exchange for
all the pomp and pageantry of the old tradition and the phlegm and flatulence of the new tradition (pioneered by Monty Python), Bresson has given moviegoers something more valuable: a sober rendition of an oft told tale, freshened and renewed by the unique, almost aberrant sensibility of its
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- Released: 1974
- Rating: NR
- Review: In 1974, the most austere of the major filmmakers, Robert Bresson, released his version of the tale of Lancelot and Guinevere. Not surprisingly, Bresson's stripped-to-the-bone adaptation eschews the traditionally heroic, spectacular, fabulous, and exaltedl… (more)