Lancelot du Lac (Lancelot of the Lake) (1974)
Director: Robert Breeson.
Starring: Luc Simon (Lancelot du Lac), Laura Duke Condominas (The Queen), Humbert Balsan (Gauvain), Vladimir Antolek-Oresek (The King), Patrick Bernhard (Mordred), Arthur De Montalembert (Lionel), Charles Balsan, Christian Schlumberger, Joseph-Patrick Le Quidre, Jean-Paul Leperlier, Marie-Louise Buffet, Marie-Gabrielle Cartron, Antoine Rabaud, Jean-Marie Becar, Guy de Bernis.
French film about Lancelot and his affair with Queen Guinevere
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
Two knights in armor fight. Other knights are making sure that the wounded are dead. Heads are cut off and the blood gushes out. There is a burning village with burning people.
After marvelous adventures, in which Lancelot of the Lake played an heroic part, the King of the Round Table set off in search of the Grail. The grail was a vessel in which Joseph of Arimathea had gathered the blood of Christ. It was to bestow supernatural power. It was believed hidden in Brittany. Merlin, before his death, pledge the knights to the quest. Merlin had indicated that the quest should be led by Perceval (Parsifal), not by Lancelot. After leaving the castle, the knights were dispersed. Perceval was not seen again. Two years have passed. Decimated the knights return to King Arthur and Queen Guinevere.
A knight gets lost in a place called Escalot. An old woman there gets an omen that all the knights will end up dead. The knight explains to the woman that he is lost and wants to return to the castle.
The Queen is pleased that Lancelot has returned. He tells her: "All is lost for us in Brittany. I love you." He tells her that in a ruined castle he saw the Grail. But the Queen is more interested in why he was not wearing the ring she had given him. He explains: "I will be yours no longer, Guinevere." He took a vow to God. But the Queen asks what about his vow to her. She leaves.
Arthur explains to the knight that the round table room will be closed. There are too many dead and too many memories. He asks: "Has God forsaken us?" He tells Lancelot and others to practice their skills, to perfect themselves. Gawain, right hand man to Lancelot, says lots of knights try to get in to be with the Queen. Gawain asks of Arthur: "Give us a purpose."
In a later conversation between Lancelot and Guinevere, Lancelot asks her to let him out of his vow to her. She is more interested in emphasizing: "I am your strength." She also says that the knights turned on each other and they still blame her love for Lancelot for this. Still later Lancelot tries to make peace with Mordred, but the man refuses.
Guinevere meets with Lancelot again. They hug this time. Mordred and two other knights approach the building where the two are meeting, but go back. The pair take a tussle in the hay. She tells Lancelot not to undress her, but rather to wait and come to her after the tournament match. Mordred lays an assassination trap for Lancelot, but Lancelot will not cooperate and show up. Lancelot had decided not to attend the tournament, but later he changes his mind and goes. Modred tells the King that Lancelot is a lover to Guinevere. Gawain swears that this is not true and Arthur tells Modred to be silent. Lancelot defeats all comers in the jousting tournament. He then starts back to the castle. Along the way he falls from his horse. He has been wounded.
Back at the castle Gawain speaks to Guinevere who has been crying. She tells him that Lancelot has left forever. The knight Lionel wants to fight Mordred to "put and end to his lies." Gawain talks him out of the match. The knights now believe that Lancelot is dead. "So the Queen must select another knight." But the Queen still believes than Lancelot is alive. She tells Gawain to tell Arthur that she waits for Lancelot. Arthur is waiting downstairs with his knights.
The knights travel to Escalot. They ask the old woman there if she has seen a wounded knight. She says she has not. But Lancelot is recovering in a bedroom of the woman's house. She tells him: "You should be dead." Lancelot decides to return to the castle, even though his caregiver is definitely against the idea. She tells him: "Go then and get killed."
Lancelot comes to the Queen to save her. He is covered in blood. Gawain arrives again and says that they must go, the knights are waiting for them. The Queen goes with Lancelot. Lancelot learns that in trying to save the queen he killed two knights: Agravain (Gawain's brother) and Lucan. Lancelot has a lot of knights with him and they will attack the knights under Mordred. In the battle Gawain is wounded mortally. When the knights blame Lancelot Gawain says that it was he who had charged at Lancelot. It was his duty to avenge his brother. He dies. In the battle, Lancelot defeated Arthur in combat, but did not kill him.
A deal is proposed. Lancelot will leave Guinevere alone and Arthur will take back his Queen. Guinevere tells Lancelot that this is their last night together. She says that he must return her to Arthur even though she despises him. Lancelot begs her to stay with him, but she replies: "Let me go." Lancelot takes Guinevere over to Arthur's camp and lets her walk the last section to Arthur by herself. Lancelot returns to his knights. There he learns that Mordred is trying to usurp Arthur's position as king. So Lancelot and his knights decide to oppose Mordred. Mordred sets up ambushes of archers along the road. Arthur is killed. Lancelot and his horse are both on the ground, both wounded. Arthur gets up and walks over to an area with a high concentration of dead knights. He falls dead onto the heap of metal and men.
Neither my wife nor I liked this French version of the Lancelot-Guinevere affair. It was slow and there were many irritating features in the movie. The director used a lot of low shots showing only the legs of both men and horses. Then they constantly used the neighing of a horse over and over that sounded almost exactly the same each time. Add to that the clanking of metal on metal of the knightly armor. Moreover, there was very little passion between Lancelot and Guinevere. The emphasis was more on recriminations between the pair. There was a lot of nice dialogue, but very little real action. I would not recommend the movie.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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