Perceval le Gallois (1978) - Passion play

Perceval le Gallois is a 1978 French film directed by Éric Rohmer. It was inspired by Chrétien de Troyes’s 12th century Arthurian romance Perceval, the Story of the Grail. The film chronicles Perceval’s knighthood, maturation and eventual peerage amongst the Knights of the Round Table, and also contains brief episodes from the story of Gawain and the crucifixion of Christ. Unlike other screen adaptations of Arthurian legend, the film makes no attempt at situating the characters in a natural or supernatural world. Instead, Perceval and his cohorts inhabit a colorful theatrical realm replete with rudimentary props, stylized backdrops, and a singing chorus that participates in the drama. At many points, characters narrate their own actions and thoughts rather than expressing them manifestly, and dialog is frequently spoken lyrically in rhyming couplets taken directly from the original text. The film’s deliberate artificiality, ironic vision of youthful valor, and frequently shifting narrative modes prevent emotional attachment to the story while leaving space for a more cerebral engagement with the elements of storytelling Rohmer has interpreted from 12th century literature.

  • Lacy, Norris J.(1991). “Eric Rohmer”. In Norris J. Lacy (Ed.), The New Arthurian Encyclopedia, p. 389. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8240-4377-4.

I’m sort of an Arthurian nut so I was looking on Youtube to see what I could find about the film, and saw this - the final scene where Perceval, the knight on the quest for the Holy Grail, “achieves” the quest by participating in a Passion Play as Christ.

Eric Rohmer’s Perceval le Gallois has this lengthy passion scene at the end, with some beautiful, traditional Latin choral music. If you like this, go get the full movie.

Nice music indeed, for someone born after Vatican II this was a new experience. However the scene is a bit bizarre since Perceval apparently gets nailed to the cross for real - but the film is supposed to be stylized and surreal, and we see him riding off at the very end.

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