Arthur/Lancelot. God, yes.
Okay, in order to properly discuss the pairing, several things need to be understood: 1) We're talking Antoine Fuqua here, not Malory, and 2) I also love the Malory versions, and for reasons that I won't go into here but OH GOD LANCELOT and his HANDS and GUINEVERE and how Arthur is WARNED they will love each other, and how all he wants is to see LANCELOT before he dies and and and --
Excuse me. My thirteen year old self hijacked my brain. I've stuffed her back into a cage, deep in my subconscious.
At any rate, we're talking about "King Arthur". The conceit of "King Arthur" is that Lancelot dies before Arthur and Guinevere are even married, or he becomes king of what will become England (I will not spew history at you at this time, because my intense desire to do so will end up in me writing a dissertation) some day. Before the death of Lancelot, Arthur is incredibly resistant to both of these things -- well, okay, he kind of does it with Guinevere, but he's way not into. Which is odd, as she's Kiera Knightley, and HI HOT.
The death of Lancelot, however, cements his intention to stay and heal England (and everytime I use that word I wince, because there is no England at this point, and there will be none for many hundreds of years, but it'll have to do), and to do so with Guinevere. Why?
Because Guinevere and Lancelot are portrayed as doubles. The death of Lancelot is neccesary in this movie, in order to allow Guinevere to come to the fore in Arthur's life. The content of the movie could be seen as the waning of Lancelot and the waxing of Guinevere, the two moons that order Arthur's life.
So, if they're doubles, what then are we supposed to interpret about the relationship of Arthur and Lancelot? That they're doing it like bunnies, no, but really.
Leaving aside my attempt at a quasi-intelligent conversation about Lancelot/Arthur, let's talk about this one scene wherein -- if you had doubts before? Everything is made clear about how often Lancelot is probably on his knees worshiping at the altar of Arthur's cock, and that metaphor isn't really an overstatement of anything.
It's right after the big ice battle, and right after Arthur's kind of had sex with Guinevere, and really not been into it as much as one would expect, and the Saxons (OMGWTF THIS TIME LINE IS SO OFF I COULD SHRIEK) are coming and the Britons are in huge trouble (Oh, buddy, if they think this is bad, just wait until the Celts/Angles/Jutes/Vikings/Normans get there...). Arthur has decided to stay, and Lancelot is begging him to leave with Lancelot, to ride to freedom and lots of sexy sweaty nights spent wrestling in Rome or Sarmatia or whevere. Because Lancelot is a pragmatist, and Arthur is suicidal, and all Lancelot can see in this ridiculous endeavor is eventual death for Arthur, and he doesn't give a good goddamn about whether or not the Britons are attacked and murdered by the thousand by the Saxons (HI, I WOULD LIKE TO POINT OUT THAT -- WTF, MAN? THE SAXONS WERE COLONIZERS NOT CONQUERERS).
The dialogue is pretty moving, as Lancelot says things like "For the love I bear you" and such, but what it is in this scene that seems to me to be the most HI WE ARE IN LOVE AND TOGETHER indicator is that when Lancelot speaks to Arthur, he clings to him. His fingers are desperate, clutching at the fabric of Arthur's shirt, and his eyes are wide and fierce, his whole body is vibrating with need to HOLD ON to Arthur, because he can feel him slipping away.
The language of Arthur's body in this scene is equally clear. He places a palm against Lancelot's chest, invades his space, stands so close that they're sharing breath, the kind of stance that makes anyone think "There will soon be a kiss here". The intensity of emotion between these two men in this scene just snap!crackle!pops! Lancelot is vibrating need, and Arthur is snapping around the edges with determination.
It's a key to who they are together, without the questions of tribe-loyalty (I refuse to call it nationality because the nation state isn't really invented yet, and Rome's a tribe as much as any other), religion or politics. Lancelot *is* need, but, just as he is in this scene, he's also reality. Arthur, firm with resolve, is optimism, idealism, a truly naive belief that things can work themselves out. He has beautiful ideas -- like Lancelot living out the rest of his days for him -- but he doesn't stop to consider the likelihood of them working out. Lancelot needs as much as he does because he can clearly see that what they have is slipping away, it's always slipping away or on the verge of doing so, because they live dangerous lives, and are not meant for old age. Either of them.
What Arthur says out loud is that Lancelot must go on living, for the both of them, and he turns to go. But he doesn't make a clean break; he drags his fingers across Lancelot's chest as though reluctant to let go of him. It's a caress, an incredibly wistful gesture.
In the end, though, Lancelot can't leave Arthur -- it's clear that he can't. The shared history -- they've grown up together, bled together, been afraid and angry and spent every day together for fifteen years -- and the real love between them (call it platonic if you will, but there is love there) makes that impossible. And Lancelot knows that even as he leaves, his eyes keep pulling back to Arthur.
Guinevere asks Lancelot once, "Is there nothing you believe in?"
Lancelot believes in Arthur; he's a dream to beautiful for reality to dismiss. Or so Lancelot seems to see him. It's intriguing that Lancelot, though he does spend so much time trying to argue Arthur away from his idealism and make him see the world as it is, when push comes to shove? Tries to create the world that Arthur sees.
It's no impersonal worship, it's 'With my body, I thee worship.' In my recap of the movie, I said OMG THEY ARE SO MARRIED, but they are. And not just because they have married fights ("WHY DO YOU TALK TO GOD AND NEVER TO ME!??"), but because of their bond. It's not a fraternal bond, it's not a platonic bond, it's passionate. It lives. It's consuming. And Lancelot does worship Arthur with his body; in the end, he gives his body for Arthur's world, dying to save Guinevere, the waxing moon on Arthur's horizon.
"Never this," Arthur croons over Lancelot's dead body. "It was to be my life, never his. Never this."
If Lancelot's love for Arthur is worship, Arthur's love for Lancelot is something more like addiction. His ability to function in the world comes from the pushing impetus of Lancelot's fire and need in his life, the point of view of Lancelot's no-bullshit honesty. Telling, then, that as he weeps over the death of Lancelot, Guinevere comes up beside him, a steady presence at his shoulder, watching his back as sh turns burning eyes back to the battlefield and the country she's won. Guinevere is steadying the king she's won for her people, stepping into Lancelot's place with Arthur as fully as she can already. She's the methodone.
Which is perhaps one of the least flattering metaphors I've ever used, really.
I love this pairing. I love this pairing because of what's dark and complicated and messy about addiction and worship and what it is that powers these men toward one another. I love this pairing because these are men who strike sparks, and are sharp as blades, and they would do anything for one another except understand each other fully. It's fucked up, y'all, and it's tragic, certainly, but it's so incredibly *fierce* that you can't look away. This is a winter love, made of stone and sword, and red blood on black dirt -- you want hearts and flowers? Head on round the corner, check out Galahad/Gawain.