Medieval Literature in the French Nouvelle Vague Cinema

Simon Kim

2018, vol.28, no.3, pp. 433-447

In opposition to conventional narratives and studio filming techniques, the Nouvelle Vague epitomizes postmodernism in French film arts. Nouvelle Vague films are characterized by their freedom of style and new approach to everyday lives of ordinary people. It is, therefore, surprising to find films inspired by medieval classics such as Chrétien de Troyes’s Perceval or La mort le roi Arthur in the Nouvelle Vague filmography. When we hear that Eric Rohmer’s Perceval le Galois is described as “his best movie,” or that Robert Bresson’s Lancelot du Lac is “his most accomplished work,” we have to wonder what makes these films by postmodern directors so “accomplished.” This article aims to examine what elements of the medieval texts have inspired these two French Nouvelle Vague filmmakers.