Medieval film' forces us into a double-take on chronology. This book argues that such a playful confusion of temporalities is a fundamental characteristic not just of the term but also of medieval films themselves. Medieval films reflect on the fact that they make present a past that was never filmable and offer alternatives to chronological conceptions of time. The book examines the contrasting uses, or non-uses, of medieval art objects in two medieval films and assesses how they contribute to the films' overall authenticity-effects. It makes tentative contribution to a list of such characteristics: that the fragmented visual profile of the medieval makes medieval authenticity-effects particularly troublesome to produce. The reliance of film theory on medievalism has never been acknowledged by film scholars. The book shows the ways in which preconceived notions of the Middle Ages filtered into and were influenced by film theory throughout the twentieth century; and to what extent film theory relies on knowledge about the Middle Ages for its basic principles. It explores to what extent medieval film engages with questions of language, and to what extent these engagements may be distinctive. Cinematic medievalism participated in and drew on a wider cultural and political preoccupation with the Middle Ages. Romanticism posited the Middle Ages as an alternative, utopian realm promising creative and political possibility. The book argues that certain films with medieval themes and settings, mostly dating from the 1940s to the 1960s, demonstrate a surprising affinity with the themes and techniques associated with film noir.
used them as a free-floating signifier that
could stand either for the present or even for a possible future.
Cinematicmedievalism: past or future?
The Middle Ages were one locus of
the past that proved popular in film from its earliest days. 16
Cinematicmedievalism participated in and drew on a wider cultural and
political preoccupation with the Middle Ages. As well as being present
consistent with medieval uses of Arthurian tradition. 68
Medieval film, as Williams says, is ‘not quite a genre’:
the category is more interesting to moonlighting medievalists than to
critics of film. 69 Though the multiplicity of the cinematicmedieval militates against its becoming a coherent genre, it is possible
that medieval films might indeed have some specifically cinematic
ideological and imaginative work they perform, have been much discussed
by scholars. In some key examples, Nickolas Haydock offers a Deleuzian
reading of the ‘time-image’ in medievalist cinema; Louise D’Arcens
considers the phenomenon of ‘temporal compression’ and the performance
of tradition across different temporalities of medievalism; and Bettina
Bildhauer analyses ‘non-linear’ time in cinematicmedievalism