This is the movie about the 12th Cenutyr that I've felt is the closest in spirit with what has been written about that time by the people themselves. Far from the ridiculous Hollywood accounts of Robin Hood and Excalibur, this movie is nothing more (and nothing less!) than a filmed chanson de geste. A troop of actors/singers portray the Chrétien de Troyes poem. Half the story is told by speaking, the other half singing. To be able to stick to the text, the characters often talk about themselves in the third person: it is effective in distancing the minstrels from the characters they impersonate. I pity those who see it but can't speak French, as Chrétien's prose has no equal, and the English translation is much more trivial than the other-worldly formulations of the author, faithfully rendered in the film...
I'd advise greatly to read Perceval before watching the movie. Only then can one see how faithful to the spirit of the author Rohmer has managed to be. The original poem already takes place in some sort of magical, fantastic land and time, where everything is made of gold and velvet, and where not everything has to make sense. The Middle Ages literature tradition is very, very big on symbolism, and therefore mustn't be taken too literally. That's what Rohmer does here: castles and trees are symbols.
The last aspect I shall mention is the resemblance between the movie and medieval paintings. Watching he movie, you often feel like watching an animated medieval fresco. Colors, clothing, positions, everything is taken directly from those depictions of medieval life. The scene of the Passion is made of everything good in that movie: very good music, amazing costumes and colors, symbolism, fresco-like positions... This movie is a masterpiece.
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