Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Discuss: Excalibur



Karen: The King and the land are one!

12 comments:

Inkstained Wretch said...

Excalibur is the kind of film that I wish was better than it actually was: It looks great, sounds great - Orff's Carmina Burana is forever associated with this film - is filled with great actors - Liam Neeson! Helen Mirren! Gabriel Byrne! Patrick Stewart! - and has some spectacular set pieces.

So why does the film disappoint me? I guess it is because we see the rise of Camelot and its fall but nothing in between. There is no sense of the greatness of the kingdom or the great deeds of its knights. As soon as Arthur becomes king we flash forward to the beginning of its fall with only a few lines about how they had these past great years to bridge the eras.

This makes the film less of a tragedy because we don't see enough of what is being lost when the kingdom falls.

It is a pity they didn't have the option to make it a cable miniseries the way they could today. Give this 10 or 12 hours and it could be epic. As it is it feels rush and cramped, like a TV edit that had to cram the story down to its bare essentials.

Edo Bosnar said...

I would echo Inkstained's criticism of the movie, i.e., it's just a little too somber and downbeat. I know the story of King Arthur is essentially a tragedy, but - at least in all of the various prose versions - there is still room for some more lighthearted tales of adventure and camaraderie between the various knights. There's too little of that here.
However, that's often a criticism you can make about most film versions of the Arthurian legend. So despite this criticism, I still think Excalibur is probably the best King Arthur movie. (But man, the thought of a nice extended miniseries with the original cast makes the mind reel...)

Karen said...

The music really is integral to the film -I can't think of scenes without the music running in my head! I would agree with both of you that it does seem that the middle has sort of disappeared -all the focus is on Arthur getting the sword, and then the quest for the Grail. But despite its flaws, I find it highly watchable. Visually, it just delights.

There's also the fact that it went against the grain of all previous depictions of the Arthurian saga, with the shining knights so often down in the mud and filth. And so much bloodshed - the whole thing was the anti-thesis of every film or cartoon version we'd ever seen before. But that's what made it so powerful.

I actually like Nigel Terry as Arthur. I think he gets a bad rap from some, because of his goofy portrayal of the young Arthur, but that works for me. So too his older, more sober King. When he goes off to face Mordred, I find him terribly heroic.

Garett said...

I think of Merlin in this film, the strange and intense performance. Just looked him up, and turns out Nicol Williamson passed away last December.

Garett said...

Interesting tidbit from Wiki:

"When Williamson appeared in the 1981 film Excalibur, director John Boorman cast him as Merlin opposite Helen Mirren as Morgana over the protests of both actors; the two had previously appeared together in Macbeth, with disastrous results, and disliked each other intensely. It was Boorman's hope that the very real animosity that they had towards each other would generate more tension between them on screen, as is evident from their scenes together."

Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, lest I sound overly critical: I agree with you about Nigel Terry; he gave a very solid performance as Arthur. Also, I agree with you that it is very watchable. I watched it on TV about 2 years ago, after not seeing it since, I thinkmy early college years in the late 1980s, and I was really impressed with how well it all holds up. Also, back then, the only cast member I recognized from other features was the wonderful Helen Mirren. When I watched it more recently, I kept thinking, "Hey, that's Liam Neeson!" and then, "Hey, that's Patrick Stewart!" and so forth...

William said...

"Look into the eyes of the dragon and despair!"

Inkstained Wretch said...

Garett's wiki tidbit comes from the director's audio commentary on the DVD, which I highly recommend. Director John Boorman is a fountain of fascinating insights.

Apparently, the studio was also dead-set against casting Williamson, seeing him as too unreliable. Boorman hired him anyway just to spite them.

Mirren, meanwhile, began seeing Neeson during the film...

The princess Byrne seduces early in the film? Boorman's daughter. The young Mordred? Boorman's son.

Boorman also claims the movie was made on a shoestring budget -- not that you'd ever notice! The feast sequences, for example, have painted backgrounds that are optical illusions to make the room seem bigger on camera

Karen said...

I have to go back and watch the DVD with the commentary on. I knew about Boorman's daughter and son, but not the rest. And how creepy is it that he filmed his daughter getting, ah, pummeled by Uther in full armor? Always thought that was weird.

Nichol Williamson was wonderful - strange yet warm at the same time.

Yes, part of the fun is so many now-recognizable actors in small roles. I love seeing Patrick Stewart in this -"If a boy is to be king, a boy will be king!"

William: great quote!

William Preston said...

I find it hard to watch, as every lined is looped. Quite distracting!

Rip Jagger said...

I rather enjoy this movie right up unto the moment they all join together and create the round table. All that wonderfully armor then gets switched out for those gleaming silver sets and I immediately think of them as the "Knights of ALCOA".

The movie does not hold up well especially, but I still like pieces of it, particularly in the early going. It's a movie with true atmosphere, not something all of them can say.

Rip Off

Anonymous said...

I studied for a while (at Newport, in Wales) under Anthony Pratt, the Production Designer on Excalibur, and remember him telling me (in '83/84) that he originally wanted to add another dimension to the film by making parts of the armour, worn by the knights and horses - out of car parts! So you might have noticed part of a headlight, a steering wheel or fender...and it would have gotten you to think whether it was set in the past or future.

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