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Lancelot du Lac [DVD]

3.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

Price: £6.78 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £20. Details
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Product details

  • Actors: Luc Simon, Laura Duke Condominas, Humbert Balsan, Vladimir Antonek- Oresek
  • Directors: Robert Bresson
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Artificial Eye
  • DVD Release Date: 28 April 2008
  • Run Time: 81 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0014G7HU0
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 50,461 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Winner of the International Critics' Prize at Cannes in 1974, Bresson's masterpiece has lost none of its power and continues to cast a mystical spell. In this compelling and hypnotic film about the Arthurian legend, the Knights of the Round Table, their numbers depleted by their bloody and fruitless quest for the Holy Grail, return to King Arthur's court. Once there, Lancelot's passionate relationship with Queen Guinevere causes the Knights to fall out amongst themselves, eventually leading to their downfall. 'Lancelot du Lac' is a unique and compelling vision of the Knights of the Round Table from one of the cinema's foremost artists.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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Lancelot du Lac is similar to other films by Bresson. The story is presented very fast and efficient: in the intro we are shown a few shots of knights being killed and horsemen riding through the woods: the knights of the round table are on their way home, decimated and having failed in the quest to find the grail. Also, like other films by Bresson, the scenes are usually in small settings or relayed through close ups: we are not given any grand views of castles (just interiors) or landscapes (trees mostly). And the actors are "models", that is they do not act by expressing emotions that explain their actions and show their personalities - instead dialogue are delivered in a monotone way and feelings are barely expressed. This is not intended to be a "realistic" film, and it is far away from the Hollywood dramas or detailed depictions of the middle ages.

The core of the film is the return of Lancelot and how this causes conflicts between the knights for and against him, and a moral conflict where Lancelot must decide if he's going to take Guinevere away from king Arthur. It gets quite suspenseful and dramatic, despite the lack of special effects. I like how battles are barely shown: in the tournament we see mostly glimpses of lances and knights repeatedly falling to the ground, and other times we are just shown a short glimpse of a knight with blood flowing from the throat.

What I lack in this DVD from AE is extra material (there are none). But considering the excellent transfer and a price under 10GBP it is great value for money anyway. If you're into Bresson or cinema in general, this is a must buy. If you're more into Hollywood films like Robin Hood you may watch this as an interesting alternative way of telling a story.
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What to make of this movie? Blood squirts and drips from severed heads and sliced groins like thick cherry juice. Lancelot says "J'taime' to Guinevere with all the passion of a piece of cheese. As in most of Bresson's films, the acting is expressionless, but here it is emotionless. "You are alone in your pride," says Guinevere to Lancelot, while she stares at him without a trace of feeling. "Pride in what is not yours is a falsehood." "I was to bring back the Grail," he tells her. "It was not the Grail," she says, "it was God you all wanted. God is no trophy to bring home. You were all implacable. You killed, pillaged, burned. Then you turned blindly on each other. Now you blame our love for this disaster...I do not ask to love you. Is it my fault I cannot live without you? I do not live for Arthur." Guinevere is austere and relentless. And Lancelot? "Poor Lancelot," one character says, "trying to stand his ground in a shrinking world."

It's been two years since Arthur sent his knights on a quest for the Holy Grail. Now, exhausted, defeated, at odds with each other, their numbers severely reduced by disease and fighting, the remnants have returned. Lancelot saw in a dream that he must renounce his love for Arthur's queen, but Guinevere will have none of that. Mordred lurks in the shadows, hinting and insinuating. Before long, the knights have chosen sides. A few will stand with Lancelot in defense of Guinevere. The rest will stand...not with Arthur, but with Mordred.

Bresson has taken the Arthurian legend and turned it into a tale of hopeless pessimism. If you don't care for spoilers, read no further. How hopeless? Nearly everyone dies except Guinevere.
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Format: DVD
This is a sombre version of the Arthurian legend, and in my view very much in tone with Thomas Malory's 15th century version. The latter is dark and foreboding, and so is this film. The deeds of arms of the knights are represented in terms that undermine the ideals of chivalry. There is only death, blood and severed body parts everywhere. The heap of bodies on which the last shot of the film focuses is the climax of this violence.
At the centre of this film stands the love between Guinevere and Lancelot, sublimely represented in the film: Guinevere waits for Lancelot's return in silence, and suffers for her love of him. Lancelot has come to the point where he tries to resist this love, for the sake of chivalry, but it is interesting to see the way in which he fails in his attempt to relinquish Guinevere.
I dare say this film is essential for anyone seriously interested in the Arthurian legend, and for anyone who has a clear understanding that the latter is not romance Hollywood style, but much darker. This is definitely not a film for everyone. There is a lot of blood and violence in the film, its atmosphere is dark, the dialogue is designedly monotonous, to match the sombre mood of the film, and there is no musical score throughout, except a very little in the beginning and end. It is exquisite in that it tells the story of a great love, accompanied by great suffering, and in that it demystifies any romantic notions we might have had about Arthur and his knights, as seen in other films of the genre. The austerity of the interiors also does away with our romantic illusions.
The acting is amazing, and I identified with the actor playing Guinevere in particular. The last scene of the movie, in which Lancelot, dying, says only one word: "Guinevre" (French version of Guinevere), stays with the viewer forever.
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