Lancelot du Lac: The Worst Movie I've Ever Seen

I've finally found it! The worst movie ever made, in the history of the silver screen. The movie is the 1974 French film Lancelot du Lac, directed by Robert Bresson, which can be watched with English subtitles.

So why am I reviewing this monstrosity? Well, partly so that you don't make the same mistake I did in attempting to watch this horrendous experiment in avant garde cinema. Yes, avant garde, that mysterious genre which sometimes produces rare gems of experimentalism and breaking boundaries. Or, as in the case of this movie, utterly obnoxious adventures in filmmaking which seem to revolve around one single premise: how much can viewers really stand before running screaming out of the room.

This movie does makes one spectacular achievement, however. It goes beyond bad, bothersome, terrible, wretched, irritating, maddening, or infuriating, and is actually a truly painful film to watch.

I've included the intro segment of the movie in case you are a really masochistic person, or just don't believe me. The rest is also available on YouTube. If you make it to the final segment, you'll probably be one of thirty others on YouTube.

Deliberately Annoying

Lancelot du Lac is not only annoying, but after forcing yourself to sit through a reasonable portion of it, you realize that the directer actually created it to be deliberately annoying. Yes, that is the point!

However, beyond the annoyance factor, and what makes Lance so truly awful, is that Director Bresson goes so far in exploring symbolic construction that he completely ignores the fact that viewers still expect an element of entertainment in what they watch, no matter how avant garde or experimental the film.

Bresson attempts to create an exercise in unraveling symbolism in order to understand a particular interpretation of the Arthurian legend, but he goes too far in asking the viewer to do all of the work in deciphering his vision. In all of his composition, he forgets the simple, underlying fact that a film is also a presentation.

Arthur, Gawain and some other knight are extremely excited watching the jousting!
Arthur, Gawain and some other knight are extremely excited watching the jousting!
Twelve year old Guinevere and her love, the aging Lancelot with a bad dye job. It looks way worse in hi-def.
Twelve year old Guinevere and her love, the aging Lancelot with a bad dye job. It looks way worse in hi-def.

Soundtrack

Possibly the most annoying aspect of the film is every single auditory noise that comes with it. From the screaming of horses, to the incessant clanking of armor, to overly loud bagpipes, the viewer is treated to a cacophony of shrill sounds that do nothing but grate upon the eardrums.

The sense of tension created by the screaming horses eventually turns into irritation. The clanking of armor at first creates a sense of weightiness, one can sense the uselessness of such a convention, the cumbersomeness of the costume, the fact that the knights are turning into something of a relic. Yet well after this impression has been created, Bresson persists in composing scene after scene made up of little more than clanking sounds and a still shot of elements that do little to move the story forward.

To top that off, all of the actors speak in such a mumbling monotone that even a viewer who doesn’t speak French will be irritated. It could possibly be that throughout the entire movie not one single, pleasant sound was recorded. While Bresson obviously had a motivation in creating such a painful soundtrack, the overall effect is more obnoxious than artistic.

A typical action shot.
A typical action shot.

Cinematography

With that being said, the use of fixed and close shots is also deliberately annoying. Bresson overuses a fixed, wide shot in which no movement can be seen onscreen, though over-amplified sounds come from off-screen, usually the sound of hoofbeats, footsteps, or armor clanking.

While the overall effect creates a sense of foreboding, since a peasant woman at the beginning of the film has explained that those whose footsteps precede them will die within a year, it is so overdone that the effect quickly becomes dull.

Ultimately, when such a shot is used, it creates a sense of suspense for the viewer, who is waiting for the action to happen. Yet the continued use of these shots is tedious, and the viewer is left with the overall feeling that there is really nothing at all happening in the film.

This is especially the case because of the overuse of tight shots, especially on legs, torsos or feet, which leaves the viewer unable to see what is happening and whom it is happening to. Instead of creating a dissonance between viewer and character, between viewer and the film as Bresson no doubt intended, it simply leaves the viewer completely uninterested in the film.

So bad its good!
So bad its good!

Overall Effect

While Bresson has made an attempt at creating a work that defies established conventions for screenplay, and attempted to tell a story symbolically through sound and limited visuals, unfortunately he only succeeds in alienating viewers through overuse of these techniques.

He is so caught up in using symbolism, repetition, lack of acting, lack of visual image, lack of action, lack of character, and juxtaposition of tension-building sound that he fails to make a presentation that will interest or attract a viewer.

In short, watching Lancelot du Lac is simply an exercise in tedium, with little redeeming value save for the overall interpretation of the Arthurian legend, and might better have been accomplished in an essay, where the audience would not be required to look at or listen to anything created by this sadistic filmmaker who seems intent on simply torturing his audience for an hour and twenty minutes.

More by this Author


Comments 13 comments

vmartinezwilson profile image

vmartinezwilson 5 years ago from Vancouver, WA

I've never heard of this movie, but thanks to your hub, I'll avoid it.

Voted up!


Dallas Matier profile image

Dallas Matier 5 years ago from Australia

Worst movie ever made? Worse than Plan 9 From Outer Space? Wow... well, if your goal was to convince people to avoid it, then you've failed in my case... I must see this movie!


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

I have not heard of this film. I have LOTS of candidates for worst movie ever made. Worst Agatha Christie film made, for example, is Ordeal of Innocence. Depressing and I didn't finish it. (I always love Agatha...)

p.s.Plan 9 from outerspace is fun to laugh at, which makes it odd to give it the label of worst film-if you are laughing at the movie you are enjoyin git for the wrong reasons, yes. But you are still enjoying it.


Anaya M. Baker profile image

Anaya M. Baker 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

I haven't seen Plan 9, but now I want to! Believe it or not, I actually sort of liked the Lancelot movie, it was soooo bad it kinda grew on me! Flora, I'm amazed, you didn't finish an Agatha Christie??? It must have been terrible!


Dallas Matier profile image

Dallas Matier 5 years ago from Australia

Yes, yes... alright... there are many, many films I would actually rate as being a lot less enjoyable than Plan 9. Though, that doesn't really make Plan 9 a better film by comparison.

Plan 9, and others like it, are the film equivalent of watching some random guy accidently get hit in the groin, and rolling around on the ground for a while - a terrible accident on the one hand, though still oddly funny. Your average dull, poorly made film is more comparable to watching that same guy sitting on his couch eating potato chips for a couple of hours. Different levels of awful, is what I'm getting at.

Anyway... a particular film's status as 'Worst Movie Ever' isn't really something worth defending... so, I'll just say that, from what I've seen so far, this Lacelot film seems to be pretty damn awful, too. Those fight scenes at the beginning were hilarious, though - if there are more of those, then I'm sold.

I don't think I've ever been so creeped out by the Lancelot/Guinevere relationship, though.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

It was awful. It was Ordeal of Innocence and should have been great as it starred Donald Sutherland and Ian MacShane. It wasn't a close representation of the book and Sutherland's character was depressed. made me feel depressed. a badly made film but fun to laugh at is the big screen version of The Mirror Crack'd-huge stars in this. Quite enjoyable for the wrong reasons.


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Anaya - you are absolutely correct. This is an annoying movie from the brief scenes I viewed. I'm not enough of a masochist to want to see more. I give it a dozen thumbs down.


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

You found a real gem here Anaya. Hey, try watching the original Exorcist part two for no redeeming value any which way. See you at the cinematheque!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

You convinced me.


Diego D. Rickards 5 years ago

Well, you are clearly blinded by hollywood cinema. Pity.


Anaya M. Baker profile image

Anaya M. Baker 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Diego, thanks for commenting. I hear what you're saying, and I did write this hub from the perspective of what we've come to expect for hollywood cinema rather than avant garde or documentary.

Looks like you might enjoy Lancelot du Lac? I actually do appreciate the movie to an extent, mostly in the fact that the way Bresson managed to defy almost every single convention of film is really quite telling about our own expectations and preconceptions for not only film but our own roles as viewers.


Scarlet Scrivener 5 years ago

Worse than First Knight with Richard Gere as Lancelot...? That is an accomplishment, then!

I see this is Gaumont Films... the same company that brought us Les Visiteurs and Les Visiterus 2. I'm still waiting for Les Visiteurs 3. I love those movies! But, maybe they have a little Monty Python envy.

Despite your article, I'd still like to see this one just to see its glorious stupidity for myself.

Voted up and accolades.


Eranofu profile image

Eranofu 4 years ago from Europe

Haha, was fun to read this. Thank you. Robert Bresson could make a sequel in horror genre "The Screaming Horses Are Back".

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working