How does one begin to describe a masterfully c0mplex film like The Green Knight? Well, I have finally been able to put my thoughts into words ...
𝕿𝖍𝖊 𝕮𝖍𝖗𝖎𝖘𝖙𝖒𝖆𝖘 𝕲𝖆𝖒𝖊
The Green Knight is a movie I have seen twice now this month, and I am still pondering on the best way to describe this film. Here we go: The Green Knight is simply one of the best films to come out in 2021. Haunting, mesmerizing, and poetic: writer-director David Lowery’s (Ain't Them Bodies Saints and A Ghost Story) Arthurian tale is a masterwork. Led by a commanding Dev Patel: The Green Knight's artful vision of thought-provoking themes will be discussed for years to come. Lowery's film of the beloved source of material, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, is always honored in the narrative sense, but it is also deconstructed in its on-screen portrayal. An epic medieval fantasy based on the 14th-century poem written by Anonymous. Lowery's film is a dark portrayal of fantasy and fiction, chop-full of symbolism.
When I was seated for my first showing of The Green Knight, I was immediately absorbed into this epic tale. Awe-inspiring and gobsmacking are a few words that come to mind after walking out of the theaters. I had felt like I had just come from the long journey itself that Sir Gawain (a powerful Patel) had taken. Through Andrew Droz Palermo's (A Ghost Story) drop-dead gorgeous cinematography, we could see the lushes green on the trees shine and feel the cool breeze blowing all around us. The dark forest of tall, howling pine trees engulfs your consciousness, sending you to a dream-like state of mind. The is the first picture where I could feel the beauty and presence of the forest Gawain travels through. There is a sense of wonder and awe as Lowery slowly moves the camera around the woods.
There are many scenes I have pondered on after watching this film twice, and the cinematography is one of those pieces that truly shined throughout the picture. So, let's move on to the actual plot of this film: The Green Knight is based on a poem and a timeless Arthurian legend. We embark on the story of Sir Gawain (Patel), King Arthur's reckless and strong-minded nephew. On Christmas morning, the mysterious Green Knight (a mighty Ralph Ineson) barges into King Arthur's court on horseback and challenges the court with what he calls 'The Christmas Game.' The Green Knight is a half-man, half tree-like figure. He proclaims that any knight who can land a blow on him will win his green axe. However, there is a catch, that knight must travel to the Green Chapel one year hence and receive an equal blow in return. As the knights all coward away, Gawain decides to take up the challenge.
But instead of fighting, the Green Knight kneels, places his axe on the ground, and lowers his head. Puzzled, Gawain doesn't know what type of game the Green Knight is playing — wielding King Author's Excalibur — he strikes and decapitates the Green Knight. Gawain seems amused and satisfied with his strike, yet the Green Knight rises and lifts his severed head off the ground. He speaks, "one year hence." The Green Knight jumps back onto his horse and rides away laughing. And thus, Gawain's incredibly short year begins until it is time for him to make his journey to the Green Chapel. Once Gawain embarks on his journey, he will encounter many trials: a Scavenger (an excellent Barry Keoghan), a mysterious woman named Winifred (a wonderful Erin Kellyman), and a Lord and a Lady (a great Joel Edgerton and Alicia Vikander). Vikander actually plays two characters in this film: the Lady and Essel, Gawain's girlfriend. Balancing two very different roles: Vikander excels in both roles and she truly captivates whenever on screen.
Gawain's quest is dangerous, one that I will not spoil for you. Instead, let me talk to you about Patel's award-worthy performance. Patel is a gifted actor, and The Green Knight continues to prove that right. With his breakout performance from 2008's Slumdog Millionaire, Patel has always been able to transform into his character(s). He went on to be in movies like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Lion, Hotel Mumbai, and The Personal History of David Copperfield. These are all great performances, but The Green Knight is his best. Patel's incarnation of Sir Gawain is striking in every scene. He is hot-headed and stubborn but also confident and fearless. Along with his furry friend (a wild fox), he befriends on the journey, there are so many details that I know I am leaving out from this beautiful picture. Lowery is a visual storyteller when it comes to filmmaking. The Green Knight might be one of his most visually told films.
There is very little dialogue throughout this picture, yet Lowery does not need words to tell his story because he lets his camera do all the work. One of the many reasons why I found this movie to be so absorbing. A powerful display of craft and symbolism that invades the viewer's mind. One of the other exciting things about Lowery's newest feature is that I finally got to experience it in the theaters. The Green Knight was originally scheduled for theaters in May of 2020. It was shelved due to COVID-19. A24 finally released the film to theaters last month (July 2021). It was well worth the wait to experience this epic picture on the big screen. Thus far, Lowery's film has grossed almost $18 million worldwide on a $15 million budget, which is pretty good for an independent film like this. Especially since we are still dealing with a pandemic and the rise of the delta variant.
The Green Knight is simply one of the best films to come out this year. It is the very definition of cinema. Bold, dark, and always captivating, this medieval fantasy will have your head spinning by the end. There is also a montage sequence that left me gobsmacked after it was over. I will not reveal where in the film it is. When it does eventually come up you, won't know what hit you. This seductive picture is a feast to the eyes and a wonder to the soul. Cinema at its finest, Lowery and Patel's beauty of a film strikes so many ways that it left my mind thinking about it repeatedly. I also changed my mind on how the film ended the second time watching it. This is what great filmmaking does, allowing the audience to experience something completely new whenever they re-watch it. In the end, The Green Knight will go down as a classic of this modern world.
Want to hear more of my thoughts about this incredible film? I spoke with my good friends, Matt and Ashley, on their podcast, Mashely at the Movies | Listen Here.
The Green Knight is rated R (Restricted) Some Sexuality | Graphic Nudity | Violence.
See it in theaters or watch it now on VOD.
Directed by David Lowery
Starring Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Barry Keoghan, and Erin Kellyman.
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