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Thursday, April 29, 2010

blue- no, yellow

been thinking about this scene over the last few days. i think that there's something subtle and very true to life going on behind it that we might be missing because we're busy laughing loudly and speaking with outrrrraaageous accents.

too many double entendres and jokes about mothers and psychoanalytic couches have made the work of sigmund freud, the father of modern (?) psychology, nearly unusable in a conversation. it's hard to remember that, back in the day, his ideas revolutionized our understanding of how the mind works... not the brain; the mind. he asserts in much of his writing that there's always something going on behind our scene, whether we are simply watching it, acting in it or living it out for as close to real as we can manage. well if that's true, perhaps there's something going on behind this one and perhaps if we rob this scene of its laughs, we can come to understand the spaces between friends.

the bridge of death fords the gorge of eternal peril. this gorge would be daunting if not for the bridge. the quest for the most holy grail cannot continue except for crossing the bridge and before gaining access to this causeway, the noble knights must pass a simple test: just answer correctly the five questions (three, sir) THREE questions posed by the bridge-keeper. should be easy stuff. however, because each of the knights is different, each knight's encounter with the bridge-keeper is different.
  • sir launcelot: in this particular reading of the legend (for there are, of course, many which contradict each other- that's how legends are) launcelot is a man of simple action, brave and forthright, full of purpose. he has no trouble with the questions because he is confident in the quest and his role in it. off he goes.
  • sir robin: it has already been well-established in the film, right down to the coat of arms on his shield, that robin is a coward- if not quite so brave as launcelot. so when king arthur suggests robin go first, he volunteers his braver colleague. once launcelot proves that the encounter with the bridge-keeper is nigh as perilous as was first presumed, robin steps right up- only to fail miserably and is cast into the gorge of eternal peril because the bridge-keeper changes the rules midway through and asks a more demanding final question. see, nobody really likes robin.
  • sir galahad: galahad is a conflicted guy. immediately likeable, he is probably the most accessible of the knights except for one key difference: he has taken vows which are meant to free him to be all that he can be in his king's service without distraction. other than one episode earlier in the story in which he finds himself in grave danger of breaking these vows, he moves with arthur's entourage with humility, an almost childlike innocence and naivete that suits him. at the mouth of the gorge, he steps up to the bridge-keeper and begins to answer the questions. surprisingly, though, he fails to answer correctly, stumbling indecisively over whether his favourite colour is blue or yellow, and is cast into the gorge of eternal peril. freud would have something to say about this slip. it may be the key to understanding a great many things...
scroll back a few chapters in the DVD to galahad's encounter with the maidens of the castle anthrax.

galahad arrives at this castle legitimately, enough. his quest has led him here. however, grail-shaped beacon and silly-bugger name games aside, he faces a situation here which will be his undoing in the end. before he is dramatically rescued by his friend, the brave but dangerous sir launcelot, he finds himself growing weaker and weaker in his resolve, enjoying the ready company of all that from which he has vowed to abstain. he doesn't do anything wrong- he just doesn't get out on his own. without being ridiculously metaphoric regarding the possible significance of the gorge itself, i posit that the experience at the castle anthrax affects galahad so deeply that he actually wants to fail at the bridge and be cast into the gorge of eternal peril.

it's right there in the script- let's pick it up just after the rescue:

CUT TO outside.

We were in the nick of time. You were in great peril.

(dragging his feet somewhat) I don't think I was.

Yes, you were. You were in terrible peril.

Look, let me go back in there and face the peril?

No, it's too perilous.

Look, it's my duty as a knight to sample as much peril as I can.

No, we gotta find the Grail. Come on.

Oh, let me go and have a bit of peril?

No. It's unhealthy.

and so on...

count how many times the word 'peril' is used. even more if you read the preceding scene as transcribed here... and note how the word's meaning has changed. galahad has come too close to the fire here and it has warmed him, shaking his resolve, leaving him a bit confused and conflicted because everything that used to be so clear now suddenly isn't.

in addition to the rather unfortunate name of their home, the maidens of the castle anthrax have their own problems but it's not that they are 'foul temptresses' as launcelot shouts during the rescue. as one of them puts it simply, they are
"but eightscore young blondes and brunettes, all between sixteen and nineteen-and-a-half, cut off in this castle, with no one to protect us.  Oooh.  It is a lonely life ..." 
the problem here is galahad's, not theirs.
it's classic.

but whatever the case, when the ultimate test of character comes at the bridge, he bites his lip and steps up, responding to the question regarding his name differently than earlier on.

he is now sir galahad of camelot,
not sir galahad the chaste.

from there, it's only a matter of time until his inner compromise is found out and he finds himself swallowed up by that which he tried desperately to keep himself from. his own part in the larger quest, it appears, is at an end.

wow. that's not funny at all.

ha ha- go to the top and watch the clip again...
it will still make you laugh, just from a different place.


At 5/06/2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still love this scene from the Holy Grail (BTW, Pink Floyd helped to finance this film).

"from there, it's only a matter of time until his inner compromise is found out and he finds himself swallowed up by that which he tried desperately to keep himself from" (JB)

Maybe people should be more open about their lives perhaps? Live like an open book in a way - not needing to explain everything they do wrong all the time - just that it can and does happen.

At 5/10/2010, Blogger jollybeggar said...

'Maybe people should be more open about their lives perhaps? ' (SVS)

that's the best thing i've read today. secrets are poison, as is regret... they both act as pipelines of negative energy into the heart of a person, resulting in greater and greater self consciousness which is emotional and spiritual bondage that is pretty hard to bust out of.

somebody smart once said 'brokenness doesn't care who knows or who's watching.'

sounds like freedom to me

and yeah- yay team on the floyd financing deal. zeppelin kicked in some cash as well... and george harrison went on to put up a huge sum of post-beatles bucks to see 'life of brian' produced.

nick mason (floyd drummer) actually gets a fair bit of screen time on the python documentary 'almost the truth' to reminisce.

At 5/19/2010, Blogger Steve Finnell said...

you are invited to follow my blog


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