Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-8bbf57454-lngfr Total loading time: 0.325 Render date: 2022-01-22T21:24:13.735Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Now You Don't See It, Now You Do: Recognizing the Grail as the Grail

from II - Interpretations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 September 2012

Roberta Davidson
Affiliation:
Princeton University
Get access

Summary

Every director who makes a film depicting the Holy Grail faces the same challenge: the audience assumes it knows what the Grail looks like. Contemporary representations of the Grail have uniformly shown a glowing chalice, and for audiences this chalice is immediately recognizable as the Grail. Accordingly, every director who makes a film depicting the Grail has the same problem: how to avoid cliché and anticlimax when an object the audience has already recognized before it appears on screen is finally seen.

To put the problem in its most basic terms – film is a visual medium. When we see an object in a film we recognize it, or we are told what it is, or we are conscious of not knowing what that thing on the screen is supposed to be. If, in order for the Grail to be visually accepted as the Grail it must conform to the popular expectation of a glowing chalice, it also, presumably, cannot be other than that when revealed. The audience must not need to ask the question, “what is it?” Therefore, the director and the screenwriter must address a crucial creative question: how a film, in which the familiarity of the object is a prerequisite of the narrative, can nonetheless surprise the audience when the already recognized object is found?

Traditionally, the history of both the representation and identification of the Grail was far less iconic than our contemporary perception of it. Its association with a holy cup does not occur until the late twelfth or early thirteenth century, in Robert de Boron’s verse romance, Joseph d’Arimathie, or Le Roman de l’Estoire du Graal. Previous versions of the Grail or Grail-like objects included a serving platter (Perceval), a cauldron that brought the dead back to life (Branwen, Daughter of Llyr), and one that would only cook food for the brave (Spoils of Annwn). However, the chalice and its identification as the cup from which Jesus drank at The Last Supper has dominated modern popular culture. In that sense, then, the actual history of multiple Grail representations does not provide the filmmaker with any viable alternative image.

Type
Chapter
Information
Studies in Medievalism XVIII
Defining Medievalism(s) II
, pp. 188 - 202
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2009

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Send book to Kindle

To send this book to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Send book to Dropbox

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×