To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, The Green Knight is an epic medieval fantasy film written, edited, produced, and directed by David Lowery based on the 14th-century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Anonymous. The film stars Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Barry Keoghan, Erin Kellyman, and Ralph Ineson. The story follows Gawain, King Arthur’s nephew, who sets out on a Christmastime journey to the Green Chapel. Once there he will test his courage and face the eponymous Green Knight after accepting the knight’s challenge and beheading him a year prior.
I’m a big fan of Arthurian legend and I went into this film expecting this grand medieval epic what I got was more of an introspective character piece. Overall, the story is about learning what it takes to be a knight finding his courage. The acting in this film is phenomenal and that all rests on Dev Patel’s performance as Gawain. He is the main human presence on screen for most of the film. Other characters pop in on his journey but it is really a story of self-discovery. When we meet Gawain, he is something like an aristocrat. He is the nephew of the King and doesn’t have to do anything. He is not yet a knight and spends his day sleeping with Essel, a local prostitute, and drinking at the bars. Even though he probably cares for this woman he knows that she is not someone that a person of his status can end up with and so does she. Even though she’s barely on the screen in the role of Essel, Alicia Vikander crushes it. More of their relationship would have been welcomed. There is a little bit of longing between Gawain and his uncle the king. Something his uncle admits is that even though Gawain is his nephew he regrets not ever really getting to know him as a person. That conversation is what sets Gawain off on this journey. He accepts the Green Knight’s game to prove to his uncle he is knight-worthy. After a year passes the King makes sure that Gawain upholds his end of the game. He wants to know if his nephew is courageous enough to take on the Green Knight because were let believe that the King has no offspring and Gawain is his only heir.
I feel that one of the intentions of this film is to show the story of a knight unfolding in real-time. Usually, a knight would return home telling his story to others in grand fashion. Here we can see it happen and find out how unreliable of a narrator a person can be. Just going to see the Green Knight and surviving isn’t enough. Gawain witnesses amazing things on this journey. He is robbed by child bandits, helps out a spirit of a young girl, sees a horde of giants traversing a valley, and meets a talking fox. These characters are noticeably no stranger to bizarre creatures and witchcraft. When the Green Knight first appears at the King’s court nobody is caught off guard by this weird-looking creature. Leading the viewer to believe they see things like this all the time. We do get to see Merlin and King Arthur in this film although none of them are ever mentioned by name. King Arthur is just known as the King, Guinevere is known as the Queen, Merlin as the Magician, and so on and so forth.
The Green Knight is visually stunning I don’t think you’ll see anything more beautiful on screen this year. A feast for the eyes, the cinematography in this film is exquisite and blew me away from start to finish. You get a sense of exactly how big this world is with the sweeping camera movements and the vast set pieces. The world feels lived in as there are old worn-down houses and bodies from battles just scoured across the countryside. This is all accompanied by a fantastic score that sets the tone and mood of the film. You get into the headspace of how Gawain is feeling when he is starving or thinking he is going to die and when he is just living his life. The film really shines in the atmosphere that it creates for the viewer. The costume design is also fantastic. When the Green Knight comes appears he looks otherworldly. At first, he is clad in darkness, but you can kind of see that he is large and humanoid. When he is revealed, he looks like a living tree. He has emerald green skin that looks carved from wood, twig-like hair, dusty armor and piercing gold eyes. His voice is deep and bellowing and whenever he moves it sounds like wind blowing through the forest. This adds to the aura of who this knight is. When magic is used in the film sometimes you see the picture change colors. When we see the Magician after the Green Knight appears, the screen is bathed in red light. We then see the Magician is trying to use his magic to see if any foul play is afoot. This happens again when Gawain is performing a task for the spirit of the young girl and when Gawain’s mother and her coven perform the spell to summon the Green Knight.
I do believe that this film will have people running to the source material to find out exactly what happens. That’s because this film does not give you all the answers. Half of this film could be a fantasy and we would not know. We don’t know why Gawain’s mother summons the Green Knight, how Gawain gets his axe back after it’s stolen, or how long he was hallucinating after eating the mushrooms. I do feel that the film gets a little lost in the middle focusing more on visual spectacle than telling a great story. It’s like the audience is left out on what’s actually going on and that hurts to film a little bit. There are many artistic liberties taken with the story and the characters. It would have been nice to have a more concise idea of what was real and what wasn’t on the journey. Yet I also feel like watching Gawain go on this journey is what matters. The film swings for the fences with an ambiguous ending. As to whether Gawain dies or survives his encounter with the Green Knight isn’t shown and that is part of what makes it good. Like Inception, this ending will almost guarantee fans’ discussion for years to come.
Seeing that this is an Oscar-bait film that takes place during Christmastime, it would’ve made sense for the studio to not release it during the middle of the summer and instead have it released during late November early December. I give The Green Knight a Solid 6.8/10. If you like art, this is the film for you. Lastly, A24 is not a studio that often does sequels but Dev Patel is such a great actor I would love to see Gawain appear in another story. Perhaps they could do a story based on the 13th-century poem The Perilous Cemetery in which Gawain defeats a devil.