Welcome to Favourite Fridays!
Today I want to tell you about a movie that’s been one of my favourites since it came out in 2001. The Mists of Avalon is based off the book of the same name by Marion Zimmer Bradley and is the story of Camelot, but told from the perspectives of the women. Honestly I’ve always been more fascinated by the women surrounding Arthur than the mythic King himself. There is such a varied portrayal of women in this film and the cast does an amazing job.
If you read further, there are spoilers to the movie/book.
The names can be confusing so I’ll do a quick run down for anyone not familiar with the Arthurian myths.
Morgaine – also known as Morgan le Fay, half sister to Arthur, daughter of Igraine and Gorlois, mother of Mordred (child of incest with Arthur)
Igraine – mother of Morgaine and Arthur, Duchess of Cornwall, wife of Duke Gorlois, later Uther Pendragon
Viviane – Lady of the Lake who gifts Arthur with Excalibur, sister to Igraine and Morgause, mother of Lancelot
Morgause – Queen of Orkney, wife of Lot, mother of Gawain, Gareth, Agravain and Gaheris (all prominent Knights of the Round Table), sister to Igraine and Viviane
Gwenhwyfar – also known as Guinevere, Queen of Camelot. Her affair with Lancelot is blamed as the downfall of Camelot
In this version Morgaine is a priestess of the Goddess and grew up in the world beyond the veil, taken from Igraine to be raised by Viviane and trained to be the next Lady of Avalon. Avalon has been almost an obsession of mine over the years and I’ve even been to Glastonbury which is said to be the mortal side of Avalon. Glastonbury is beautiful and I would go back again in a heartbeat. It has a very old feeling to it and is almost a world unto itself, wrapped in a bubble where the Goddess faith, Christianity, modern life and history blend into a seamless tapestry. The setting of the story is littered with political, social and religious upheaval. Between Saxon raids, the rise of Christianity overtaking the Goddess faith, changes in political leaders and ensuing scandals, it’s no wonder that Camelot is a pipe dream that eventually collapses.
Obviously there are differences between the book and movie, and I have to say that I prefer the movie over the book in this case. I couldn’t really get into the book and I feel like quite a few character flaws were smoothed out in the movie. That’s not to say characters don’t have flaws, but they are more sympathetic, more likable, or at least more tolerable when you’re spending several hours with them. The movie runs just over 3 hours, so it’s an undertaking similar to the Lord of the Rings in that respect.
Morgaine is an intensely kind woman for all the pain she suffers in the story, manipulated and pulled from all sides. She spends her later childhood in Avalon and then returns to this world to support her brother during his rule as King. The dark stain on her otherwise happy relationship with her brother is the child conceived between them during a fertility ritual where neither knew the identity of the other. Viviane’s objective is to retain the power of the Goddess and generally has no qualms about using unsavory means to make sure that happens. She hopes for Mordred to be the new King after Arthur, a king who would unite the Christians and Pagans, though he’s rather unstable, as children of incest tend to be, and it doesn’t go at all according to plan.
The story ends in tragedy, as the original myth does as well. Morgaine survives, but not many others do and while she is in her darkest moment she is reunited with Igraine at Glastonbury Abbey.
I could watch it over and over, not just for the acting perfection or the gorgeous scenery, but for the intensely emotional story that is told through such varied, powerful and incredible women.
Thanks for stopping by!