Friday, July 18, 2008


Excalibur; Fantasy adventure, USA/ UK, 1981; D: John Boorman, S: Nigel Terry, Nicholas Clay, Helen Mirren, Nicol Williamson, Cherie Lunghi, Liam Neeson, Patrick Stewart, Clive Swift, Gabriel Byrne, Katrine Boorman

Knight Uther Pendragon is given the sword Excalibur by the wizard Merlin in order to unite the land. Yet new battles arrive and Uther uses Merlin's magic to disguise himself as Cornwall and sleep with Igrayne. She gives birth to Arthur while Excalibur is thursted into a large stone. Decades later, the young Arthur draws Excalibur from the stone and becomes the new king. He marries Guenevere, unifies the land and creates the fellowship of the Round Table. Yet his knight Lancelot has an affair with Guenevere while Arthur's half sister, the witch Morgana, wants to get to the throne. Thus Arthur sends his knights to find the Grail which will heal him and the land, killing Mordred and Morgana. Then he throws Excalibur into the river.

Just like Milius' "Conan the Barbarian", Boorman's "Excalibur" is also a thoroughbred adventure spectacle that works like a movie opera with opulent details and is rich with bravura epic scenes, but whose ambitions as a whole are larger than the given result. The movie is filled with bizarreness that start already in the exposition: Merlin (with a strange metal helm on his head) uses his magic to mask knight Uther into his rival Cornwell. Uther thus enters into his rival's castle and has an affair with the object of his desire, Cornwell's wife Igrayne (played by Katrine Boorman, the director's daughter!). Even though that sequence is confusing, Gothic and dark, it results with a poetic point: Igrayne gives birth to a child, while Uther says: "Until today, I only knew of killing. Maybe now it's time to learn how to love". The whole film is like that; rushed, episodic, hectic, filled with a surreal costume-set design assembly and thus not for everyone's taste, but at the same time filled with wisdom, like when Merlin says: "Good and evil, one cannot exist without the other" or when Arthur's knights are riding pass the blooming trees from which petals are falling on them, so one can forgive it's eccentric style. It's a cult film, yet one wonders what Boorman could have done if he had filmed "The Lord of the Rings" instead, as he originally planned to.


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