The Green Knight comes across as an “epic fantasy adventure” reminiscent of specific tropes – monsters, for one, and big fight scenes. The real Lord of the Rings, which is actually rather fitting considering that author JRR Tolkien was a huge fan of the medieval poem the film is based on and even produced his own translation. Still, if you walk into The Green Knight expecting something like HBO’s Game of Thrones, you’ll likely have the carpet under your feet in the movie’s first ten minutes or so.
The Green Knight isn’t another King Arthur-style sword and board game – luckily, it’s much, much better.
Directed by David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon) and starring Dev Patel, Alicia Vekander, Joel Edgerton and Ralph Ineson, The Green Knight is, in a nutshell, dense. It tells the story of a young knight in the making, Gauvain (Patel), who dreams of the kind of fame and honor that a person can tell great stories. Gauvain is courageous but indecisive, incapable of engaging in true heroism or true romance. That is, until King Arthur’s court is interrupted one day by a mysterious and monstrous visitor – a giant plant-like knight who comes up with a game: any knight brave enough can deal him a blow, with one caveat – a year later, on Christmas Day, this knight must leave the hawker and seek him out so that he can return the blow in kind. Eager to prove himself, Gauvain accepts the challenge and, in his enthusiasm, beheads him. It doesn’t kill the monster, however, and Gauvain suddenly finds himself realizing the reality of what he has done and that he is now doomed to be beheaded in the wild next year.
By the way, this is all from the poem, which is why it may seem a little strange – we are dealing with a moral tale of over 700 years, written anonymously.
With this inciting incident out of the way, the film begins to break free from its source material, offering new moments that are clearly inspired by, but not directly referenced in, the poem. Plagued by everything from roadside bandits to encounters with ghosts and giants, Gauvain’s journey to find the Green Knight’s house and achieve his end of the bargain is anything but easy or linear. The film takes an episodic approach to these moments, interrupting the story with richly illustrated title cards that make the whole thing even more magical.
Between these title cards are lush pictorial scenes that linger – expanses of the film progress quietly, without dialogue, as Patel roams forests or winds on horseback. More than once the camera is seated in a static position, waiting for it to catch up from a distance, giving you ample time to explore the foreground with your eyes for the most impenetrable details.
As these episodic encounters progress and things get more and more surreal, Lowery begins to ask more and more for viewers to participate. Like the source material, the film is layered with metaphors and symbolism designed to ask questions that have no definitive answers. For example, as Gauvain nears the end of his quest, he stumbles upon the castle house of a lord and an unnamed lady – the lady played by Alicia Vikander, who also plays Gawain’s kind of girlfriend. , Essel to Camelot. This duplicate cast is never recognized on screen, but the implications are plentiful.
It’s not the kind of movie that gives you time to just “turn your brain off” and enjoy the ride. That said, Patel’s Gawain is definitely the best for men’s eyes, so hopefully you won’t be too crazy to engage deeply every moment. Studio A24 released in a fun way Tiger Beat style promotional images by Sir Gauvain and it is anything but false advertising. That’s a good thing, given the film’s penchant for silence and the fact that Gauvain spends more than half of the execution time on screen alone or almost. Patel’s performance is magnetic and heartbreaking, even as he passes entire scenes in complete silence.
The rest of the cast also didn’t sleep at work. Vikander’s dual role is responsible for most of the heavy exhibition work she does with a sort of Shakespearean rhythm and gravity. Ineson’s Green Knight is finished, like most of the movie, practically entirely with prosthetics rather than visual effects, but he still manages to make a meal of his scenes even under pounds of makeup. Even King Arthur (Sean Harris), arguably the most famous and widely adapted character in Camelot’s canon, feels entirely new and fresh, dressed as an aging and sentimental monarch rather than a childish hero.
Anyone who wants to engage and participate in The Green Knight will undoubtedly gain a lot from the experience – it’s absolutely worth multiple views and lengthy chats with friends from multiple angles. Likewise, not actively connecting will likely result in a confusing and frustrating watch. It would be best to measure your expectations and enter with an open mind.