For Reel


Lancelot du Lac (1974)
February 28, 2012, 12:22 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Robert Bresson

The most aesthetically radical of Robert Bresson’s pictures, Lancelot du Lac alarmingly begins with a series of preposterously violent slaughterings rid of context and defined character. Adapted from a small piece of the Arthurian legend, the narrative starts just after the fall of the Round Table and the failed quest for the Grail, and it concerns the impassioned Lancelot; his Queen, Guinevere; and the noble Gauvain, among others. In the centerpiece of the narrative – a jousting tournament – a bravura use of editing marks the spectacle as one of Bresson’s finest and most exciting sequences. There is never an establishing shot, nor does Bresson use crowd reactions in order to enhance the suspense. Repetition is employed in order to evoke the procession of matches – the cuts include, for instance, a piper’s midsection and his consistent playing of three notes, as well as the lower half of the horses, as if to focus on the extravagance that is the musculature of the beasts rather than the clashing of knights. This type of shot – in which Bresson deliberately obscures a great part of the figure from the audience – is a staple within his oeuvre, although it is never used quite as extremely as in Lancelot. Quite often, the camera will follow the knights only from their knees down, and even when the iconic Round Table is depicted, it is done so in a fragmented manner, as if revealing pieces of a pie. By fracturing the figures in such a way, it suggests that the men are broken after their failed quest, and that their loyalties are sent into disarray. The titular figure, for instance, struggles between pledging his loyalty to God or to his Queen, and it isn’t until his last breath that his ultimate allegiance is revealed – “Guinevere.”

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