Friday, August 21, 2009

Name a good film made from a medieval story

other than Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The Arthurian cycle has taken a miserable hammering, from the banal idiocy of “First Knight’ to the pretentious silliness of “Excalibur”. (It’s true, Uther manages to rape Ygraene without taking off his full body armour….which may explain the lady’s facial expressions). There’s a twee film of Gawain and the Green Knight which conflates it with some of Chretien’s tales and misses the point of the story. I saw it on tv in the 1970s. The reviewer said: the author of the medieval poem is anonymous. If it’s anything like the film that’s totally understandable.

Beowulf has recently been butchered by two very different films (see previous posts.) neither of which seem to have a firm grasp on what’s happening in the poem.
Robin hood has become a smiling bandit leaping around in tights, (and we can discount any film where they describe King John as a Norman.)

Has the Tain ever been filmed? That would be a superb subject for a three part epic.. Deirdre first, then the youth of Cuchulain to lift the mood a little before the The Tain proper. Except it wouldn’t have the furry loveliness of that other pseudo medieval three part epic. It’d be a bitter story about jealousy and greed and all those other adult things that don’t happen much in fantasy world. With the hero doing what medieval heroes do the end.

I’m sure I once saw a very low budget but weirdly excellent Gaelic film of the story of Finn, but this was on late night tv back in the early eighties… there’s also an excellent stop animation series of the Canterbury tales that was doing the rounds recently…but that’s hardly mainstream cinema. El Cid with Charlton Heston is ok though painfully long…and not as good as The War Lord which I don’t think is a medieval story but a story set in the middle ages?

Has the song of Roland ever been filmed?

So…any takers?


Anne Gilbert said...

I can't think of any "good" films made from medieval stories, though there have been some attempts. I don't think the Tain has ever been filmed, nor, as far as I know, has the Song of Roland. Proably just as well. If Hollywood got its collective hands on either of these medeival classics, they'd probably make a hash of it, as they did with the two Beowulf films they made.

Liam Guilar said...

my thanks to Linda for these links:
"This goes back to an ongoing discussion I’ve had with Paul Halsall at Fordham University. (check out his article and list here, respectively: and "

Anne Gilbert said...

Paul Halsall is an interesting guy. He hangs out at an e-mail list called MEDIEV-L, if you care to join it. Sometimes some of the members are pretty "stuffy" about some things, but periodically, interesting discussions come up, that have caused me to sit up and take notice.
Anne G

Anne Gilbert said...

Also, BTW, you might want to take a look at the comment I made, that spun off from your post. It's on The Writer's Daily Grind, which is at:

I write, basically, on all the subjects covered in the book(s) I'm writing, and the current one takes place at about the same time that inspired yours.
Anne G

Anonymous said...

the other boelyn girl

Anne Gilbert said...

I wouldn't consider The Other Boleyn Girl "medieval", and I've been told it wasn't all that good a film. I haven't seen it though, so I wouldn't know.
Anne G