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The Passing Of Arthur And Excalibur

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The Passing Of Arthur And Excalibur Essay, Research Paper

John Boorman adapted the ?Passing of Arthur? in the movie

?Excalibur.? Movies are not the only adaptations of Tennyson?s

poem but there are several art and music adaptations. Examples

of these adaptations include music by Loreena McKennit and

paintings by John William Waterhouse, Howard Pyle and Arthur

Rackham. In Bela Balazs?s Art Form and Material Balazs states

that a good adaptation is a reinterpretation of the original.

Boorman uses nature and color to recreate the atmosphere of the

original text. These techniques enhance the richness of the

movie, provide a more in depth view of Arthur?s life and make the

setting more interesting.

Tennyson?s descriptive writing allows the reader to form

detailed pictures. The atmosphere Tennyson creates focuses a lot

on the beauty of nature. During the scene when Bedivere throws

Excalibur in the lake he describes the area with ?zigzag paths,

and juts of pointed rock, the shining levels of the lake…the

winter moon, long cloud and frost.? He produces an atmosphere of

bleakness and despair.

Tennyson concentrates on the image of the winter moon while

Bedivere tries to get rid of the Excalibur. This picture makes

the reader think that the setting is a winter night. According

to Webster?s dictionary, winter symbolizes of coldness, misery or

death. Winter is the season when living things die. The moon

only comes out during the night. At night people ?rest? from

their busy lives and do nothing. Night closely related to winter

because both are very dark and bleak times. The lack of light

shows the sadness happening to Arthur. As Arthur passes the only

light he has comes from the winter moon. The reader gets the

feeling that Arthur is heading there. Tennyson chooses dark

words and images to create a very desolate and gloomy setting.

Sidney Lumet states in Making Movies ?there are no

unimportant decisions in a movie.? Production designers put a

lot of effort to recreate the original text. The setting is a

very important factor in making a movie. It contributes to much

of the style of a movie. Settings reflects many of the directors

insights and opinions. There are times where the director goes

to great lengths just to form the perfect scene. They leave no

detail spared. According to Lumet, a director?s goal is to

create a setting so that the audience feels apart of the movie?s


When the director needs to find a setting for his/her movie

Lumet recommends to ?find places that are closest to what you

want to end up with.? If the setting needs to be changed it can

change the atmosphere and become expensive too. Art direction

progresses on its own according to the text. Scenes can change

color, style, etc. based on the plot. Lumet feels that ?small

elements add up.? It takes a lot of planning, deciding and

concentration to create the perfect setting. There is more

behind the setting then what the eyes behold.

Poems are subject to interpretation. They allow the reader

to create different images and thoughts completely on their own.

Movies leave very little room for other interpretations because

they are mainly visual. Therefore, what the director puts in a

movie makes the decision more important.

Following what Lumet recommends Boorman creates a scene that

closely resembles what Tennyson originally constructed. Boorman

focuses on the details of the scene to make it more rich and

close to the original text. He adapts what Tennyson wrote to

form a more powerful visual image.

Boorman?s adaptation of the winter moon becomes a bright,

deep red sunset. Arthur lays injured waiting to be reborn and

the sun is setting behind him leaving a red glow over the whole

setting. The bright red sun?s strong rays can not be missed.

According to Encarta Encyclopedia, the color red symbolizes

blood, passion, wealth and aggression. All of these

characteristics can be seen in the character of Arthur. The

blood, passion and aggression represent the battle he just fought

and was injured in. King Arthur controls and has power over

everyone. He is worth more than anyone else. Red shows Arthur?s

love and passion of his friends of the distinguished round table

and Excalibur. ?My brand Excalibur which was my pride,?

exemplifies how deeply he feels about his duties as king, and the

power he showed.

There is also a lot of symbolism behind the sunset. As

stated in Webster?s dictionary, a sunset means a decline, final

phase, illness, fading and death. Seeing the sunset behind the

injured Arthur makes the reader feel and see more clearly the

closure of Arthur?s life. Sunsets are a reminder of an ending

yet also represent the beginning of something new. Arthur was

ending his life just like the sun but was reborn just as the sun

is the next day. The red sunset was so large that there was no

way it could be missed. It parallels what Arthur was going

through at the same time. Boorman obviously wanted the sunset to

get attention because it means so much.

One question that comes to mind after looking at both the

poem and movie is: why would the director make changes from the

original text? An adaptation is entitled to have some

differences but that do not change the context of the original

text. A winter moon draws less attention than the red sunset.

The red sunset symbolizes much more than a bleak winter moon.

Movies are based on visual representations and little room for

self interpretation. Therefore, details need to mean much more

and stimulate the feeling the original text does. Boorman wants

the audience to react and appreciate the details that he thought

out very carefully. He tries to make the whole movie arouse

feelings and emotions just as well as the poem does. As Lumet

stated the little things are not little to the art director,

everything counts.

Changing the winter moon to a red sunset did not manipulate

the plot in any way. If anything changed, it would be the

feeling the reader has about Arthur?s death. The winter moon

seems bleak and empty whereas the red sunset stirs up many

feelings and symbolizes so much more.

The final scene of ?Excalibur? is a successful adaptation of

?The Passing of Arthur.? The movie did not change the text in

any way but used different images. Both the winter moon and red

sunset but portrayed the same idea, death. Boorman used his own

creation, a red sunset to make the same statement as before but

just with more emphasis. The director did his job in recreating

the context of the original text. Therefore, he created a great


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