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(115) Efydd

Three contemporary films about the Grail: Apocalypse Now (1979), Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail (1975), and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1987). Apocalypse is the most sophisticated, being based on Weston’s From Ritual to Romance (1920). Weston held that the Grail legend was about death and rebirth with the seasons; the king dies and is replaced by a new king to bring about fruitfulness—possibly he is dismembered along the way. This is the fate suffered by Kurtz. It is a good film but it is not the Grail—it reduces the Grail to a metaphor.

The Python film is hardly worth a mention, it just reflects the way the Grail legend itself has completely degenerated in what was once its home—in Britain, Avalon. It has become a joke, with a few smutty references along the way—sure, it has wordplay, essential to the Grail; and yet the overall tenor is regression into triviality. Python was decadent—as others have observed, it relied on sending up the British establishment as preposterous and yet, amid the wreckage, men like John Cleese feel nostalgic for what they took apart.

Indiana Jones is less sophisticated than Apocalypse, being literal—yet, oddly, it is closer to the truth: the Grail is a literal object, not a metaphor. For Jones the Grail grants immortality and heals wounds—the Grail is that, but it is more than that; it is justice. Ironically, Indy does not deserve the Grail—those who seek the Grail are not permitted to kill; and he kills (a lot). It would have been a better film with that condition in place, in fact. Grail knights should be pure—and it is Jones’s foes from the SS who instantiate what a Grail knight is (although they also kill). It is “the last crusade”—a film to end all crusades, to end all Grail quests; and, in fact, all these films are means to neutralise an Indo-Aryan legend by the Jews.


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