Lancelot of the Lake (1974)

Lancelot of the Lake (1974)

“It was not the Grail; it was God you all wanted.”

Upon return from a fruitless quest for the Holy Grail, Sir Lancelot (Luc Simon) tries to break off his affair with Queen Guinevere (Laura Duke Condominas) and prepares for battle with his arch-enemy Mordred (Patrick Bernard).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • French Films
  • Historical Drama
  • Medieval Times
  • Robert Bresson Films
  • Royalty and Nobility

As I’ve noted in other reviews, I’ll admit to a strong bias against Robert Bresson’s highly stylized approach to filmmaking, in which his actors are explicitly directed to remain expressionless, and Bresson’s own thematically enriched visuals take center stage. While I admire his intentions with this unique approach to the subject matter here (simply check out some of the lengthy user comments on IMDb for a sense of the strategic points he was apparently hoping to make), I’m much more in favor of Eric Rohmer’s alternatively stylized take on the same period and historical figures (1978’s Perceval). With that said, there’s still quite a bit here for all film fanatics (including my own grouchy self) to enjoy and appreciate — such as the power of Bresson’s strategically “cubic” representations of armored body parts, etc., through which one does quickly get a sense of the dreary oppression that dominated this bloodiest of eras. Indeed, the visuals are consistently inventive; all the more shame, then, that his narrative — about guilt and love and shame and God (I think?) — remains so frustratingly opaque. True fans of Bresson will be enamored by Lancelot du Lac; others will simply grow weary and long for clarity.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • An effectively stylized rendering of medieval England and Arthurian legend
  • Fine, authentic sets and costumes

Must See?
No, though naturally Bresson fans will want to check it out. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Lancelot of the Lake (1974)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see. This is one dull film.

    Bresson is among the most frustrating of filmmakers. When he’s ‘on’ (i.e., ‘Pickpocket’, ‘A Man Escaped’*, ‘L’argent’), he’s not only good – he’s rather remarkable. But when he’s ‘off’… his films are nearly impossible to watch.

    It’s particularly disappointing in the case of ‘Lancelot…’. If it weren’t for the fact that it’s rather accomplished visually – and also that its production design and attention to period detail are impressive… it would be little more than a soporific.

    What’s most annoying about the film are the several ‘love scenes’ between Lancelot and Guinevere – which are insipid beyond belief. But the script is largely uninvolving (and, yes, confusing) anyway.

    *How could Peary have managed to include so many of Bresson’s terrible films and yet ignore ‘A Man Escaped’? Not only is it a great film but it’s also (apparently) the only Bresson film that was a box office hit.

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