A note from Stella:

Jeremy Wiley has been a big fan of John Boorman’s epic fantasy, Excalibur, since he was a youngster, hunting down VHS and laserdisc versions of the film and collecting posters and photos along the way. Fast forward to the present and you just know that we made the documentary Behind the Sword in the Stone, now called Excalibur: Behind the Movie, for fans just like him.

Jeremy has kindly provided his review of the documentary. As an executive producer of this documentary, I’m always so happy when fans get a chance to see it! And it means a lot when they love it as much as I do.

A big thank you, Jeremy, for sharing your impressions with us. heart

Jeremy Wiley on Excalibur: Behind the Movie

I thought the documentary was structured well and felt smooth, with no slow spots, an accommodating length for the more casual viewers, and enough substance for the harder fans. Film opened with a “hard work” shot of the helicopter hauling supplies at the behest of a smiling crew. That says a lot about “Excalibur” and the film at hand. A nicely finessed title card sequence (Percival throws topic sword to the glory of Wagner music), and a thoughtful closing parlance works well (the Avalon boat shot that closes the film). Also an asset was an original score to the documentary itself; I noticed that it played with an Irish quiet and dignity, nearly cradling/whispering the viewer into each new segment of the
presentation.

Documentarians Alec Moore (L) and Mark Wright (R),
with director John Boorman in the center

The considerable and very real participation by director John Boorman is great, as is the cast assembled, which would have to be the most impressive ensemble I have ever beheld in a production of this sort. The documentary highlights several lively anecdotes from them–impassioned, humorous and heartfelt. My favorites: Boorman explaining that the limitations placed on the film produced enchanting solutions; Nigel Terry offering his take on the very real and physical quality of the film; and Cherie Lunghi’s reflections on the often rather sad poetry of her character, allusions to the garden of Eden, and the painterly, storybook quality to the film. A classy eulogy for players departed is provided, and Gabriel Byrne revealed a real and most important artifact from the film–the sword itself, accompanied by a touching reverie laced with pride, respect and pathos.

In addition, Paul Geoffrey, an interviewee as vital and impassioned as his Percival in the film, and Clive Swift, displaying a comical, lively manner matched by his filmic personality, both added to the story of the making of Excalibur.

The inclusion of the technical crew also added a great deal to the documentary. Alex Thompson’s painting “Excalibur” in “browns, greens and peacock blues” and his obvious reverence for the gorgeous wedding scene was a great segment, and the commentary by Trevor Jones on the original and adapted music in the film was great, as was the small treasure trove of original concept art, which includes very rare pieces (as I have looked and only witnessed one of these previously).

I wrote this review because I cared–a small humble thank you. And to risk a “Henry V” call to arms, in the end Excalibur: Behind the Movie is just soaked in an obvious benevolence, awe and respect for its subject matter. Its energy, composition and thoughtful, intelligent organization filled me with the same excitement, anticipation, and wonder experienced through all the years of viewing the film itself. So much so, that watching the account of the making of “Excalibur” in itself becomes an emotional, inspiring and exciting experience. This is a work that functions extremely well outside of the source material and creates smiles and inspirations in the viewer. It will remain as a testament and companion to a film beloved by so many. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of the audience.

Your film will remain, and the things that remain are important.

–Jeremy Wiley

9 Comments

  1. Thank you Jeremy for this lovely essay. Your review peaks my interest even more. Someday we will get to see this documentary in my country (Canada).

  2. DORA BARALIA

    EXCALIBUR was a great production like all movies that our GABRIEL filmed, and we wait for more …

  3. Would be nice to see it in America. :(

  4. Thanks so much for sharing ~ Would love to see someday

  5. Where can I rent or buy it?!

    • Joshua,

      The documentary has been optioned by PBS America. We hope they will air it at some future time, but there is no indication when that might be right now.

      There is no DVD to purchase. That may change someday.

      Thanks for your interest. I know this is frustrating! Stay tuned, though, because as soon as PBS sets a date, I will let everyone know!

      Stella <3

  6. I need to see this. I’ll pay to see it! I can’t find it anywhere.

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