Lancelot of the Lake

One of Robert Bresson's most beautiful and inventive films updates the King Arthur legend, not by bringing it into modern times but by the timeless modernism of the artist's treatment. The focus is on the adulterous love of Lancelot and Guinevere, viewed in its moment-the end of the Arthurian dream. Long stretches of the film are without dialogue, and offscreen sound and dialogue-when a person is heard but not seen-is the aural counterpart of a visual scheme in which hands, knees, and legs are seemingly disembodied from their armored owners. Exaggerated noises become ironic comments (e.g., the clash of armor that precedes lovemaking). The powerful effect of Bresson's elliptical soundtrack and images is that of a code of honor broken down, and “poor Lancelot, trying to stand firm in a shrunken world.”

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