Film Micrœview #124: Lancelot du Lac (1974)
08.22.2014 § Leave a comment
I love Bresson but this was not tops on my list of his movies for me to see. It was talked about in a movie I watched recently, A Cock and Bull Story. I feel like the description of it there was a bit off. But I was amused by how CaBS prominently features a malehood battle wound, and that seems to happen at one point here…
Lancelot du Lac opens with what is among its most brutal imagery. The violence is anonymous, ambiguating the killer and the killed. It is even devoid of humanity altogether — we don’t hear any voices or screams. This rooting of the film was the quest for the grail, and moreover it was a failure, we learn. God has forsaken these people (particularly intense subject matter for religious Bresson). Or he is punishing them for a transgression. Lancelot blames it on his infidelity. Guinevere argues that God is not a trophy. Devotion to God, or each other(‘s bodies)? These bodies are so pathetic… brittle as the armor they wear, just shot through with further impersonal arrows in the end. Both the secular and holy love these characters feel are merely obsessions, and this film feels like it begins inside the failure and merely plays out the inevitable execution of it. The idle, restless knights fall to pieces. Lancelot’s friends spring to his defense, wrongfully; and Arthur admonishes his enemies, wrongfully. All non-anonymous fighting is within (even then Lancelot is posing as anonymous).
Lancelot du Lac does not glorify Camelot or its knights. Arthur is a non-entity. It is only about Lancelot. It lingers on the knight’s exposed vulnerable parts. Fragmented, impressionistic glimpses at their frailty. This works with the stripped down acting style — like a list of facts that happened, the same thing to work with as in our memories and dreams. There is repetition and amplification of the sounds (horses, bagpipe, creaking armor). The story is tremendously elliptical — most big moments are unseen.