Friday, August 15, 2014

The Fisher King (1991)

Director: Terry Gilliam
Writer:    Richard LaGravenese
Cast:       Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Mercedes Ruehl, Amanda Plummer

A modern day tale about the search for love, sanity, Ethel Merman and the holy grail.

Jeff Bridges plays the role of a radio DJ, Jack,  who inadvertently prompts someone to carry out a massacre in a New York bar. His career goes downhill and is staying now with his girlfriend who owns a video store. He meets a mad homeless man (Robin Williams) whose wife was murdered in that massacre and is now in search for holy grail. What follows is a story of redemption as they help each other in finding happiness which is their holy grail. The title refers to the Arthurian legend, the Fisher King, who is the latest in a long line charged with keeping the Holy Grail. The film's version of the legend is as follows:

Parry: It begins with the king as a boy, having to spend the night alone in the forest to prove his courage so he can become king. Now while he is spending the night alone he's visited by a sacred vision. Out of the fire appears the holy grail, symbol of God's divine grace. And a voice said to the boy, "You shall be keeper of the grail so that it may heal the hearts of men." But the boy was blinded by greater visions of a life filled with power and glory and beauty. And in this state of radical amazement he felt for a brief moment not like a boy, but invincible, like God, so he reached into the fire to take the grail, and the grail vanished, leaving him with his hand in the fire to be terribly wounded. Now as this boy grew older, his wound grew deeper. Until one day, life for him lost its reason. He had no faith in any man, not even himself. He couldn't love or feel loved. He was sick with experience. He began to die. One day a fool wandered into the castle and found the king alone. And being a fool, he was simple minded, he didn't see a king. He only saw a man alone and in pain. And he asked the king, "What ails you friend?" The king replied, "I'm thirsty. I need some water to cool my throat". So the fool took a cup from beside his bed, filled it with water and handed it to the king. As the king began to drink, he realized his wound was healed. He looked in his hands and there was the holy grail, that which he sought all of his life. And he turned to the fool and said with amazement, "How can you find that which my brightest and bravest could not?" And the fool replied, "I don't know. I only knew that you were thirsty.

The film if you go just by plot is very melodramatic but when put in a Gilliam universe it is something else. The scenes involving the red knight stands out. It has got a feel good ending which you don't expect from a Gilliam film and it is much more of a mainstream film by his standards. The performances by all the four main characters are excellent. Jeff Bridges is certainly very underrated and underused but he still managed to get an academy award with 'Crazy Heart'. Robin Williams is in a typical role of his but in a much more substantial film than his usual children's films. Still my favorite performance of his is the against the type professor in 'Good Will Hunting' for which he received his Oscar. Jumanji was also a favorite film of mine during my childhood even though I was kind of half terrified by it.

Rating: 4/5