Director: John Boorman

U.S.A.| 1981. Colour. Dolby stereo. 140 mins.

Able at last to tackle ‘The Matter of Britain’, Boorman created his own synthesis of the Arthurian cycle, drawing strongly on Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, but weaving in elements of the pre-Malory versions of the tale in French and German along with ideas borrowed from later writers-Tennyson, T. F. Powys, T. H. White, T. S. Eliot. His aim was to make the story at once ancient and modern in its relevance, locating the action at that point when Christian monotheism was supplanting the old pantheist religion, and culture and nature became dissociated from each other. In Excalibur Boorman’s elemental imagery comes gloriously into its own: fire against darkness, streams and chasms and dark gnarly forests, mud and blood and steel and stone. Such visual richness compensates for a script that often courts banality. Boorman, conceding a fair share of silliness, added, ‘If you stand outside the film it looks ridiculous. You have to enter and be overwhelmed by it.’

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