Classic Movie Themes: Excalibur (1981)
Excalibur (1981) is a visually arresting retelling of the Arthurian legend. Filmed at a time when studios where happy to finance large budget fantasy films, John Boormans movie is not your typical sword and sorcery fodder. It’s an adult adaptation of Mallory's Morte' D'arthur, filled with scenes of sex and violence, driven by some eclectic and eccentric performances from the ensemble British cast. The film boasts a handsome production design with a very stylised aesthetic. The Irish locations are lush and verdant. This is not intended to be a historically accurate portrayal of the source text but more of a visual homage. Excalibur evokes both the mythic power of Tolkien and the operatic splendour of Wagner. Boorman had tried to adapt The Lord of the Rings a decade earlier.
The soundtrack for the film blends original material by composer Trevor Jones along with classical pieces. The opening scenes in which Uther Pendragon is victorious in battle plays out against Siegfried's Funeral March from The Ring by Richard Wagner. This arrangement was specially recorded by London Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Norman Del Mar. It is a very imposing sequence, especially the entrance of Merlin (Nicol Williamson). The use of classical music in movies is not as easy as some may think and it requires a lot of skill to choose an appropriate piece that compliments the movie’s visual. Boorman's choice of Wagner is both wise and appropriate and thus greatly enhances the movie.
Below is the edited version of the track specifically designed for the movie, followed by a full recording.