The Green Knight, 2021.
Directed by David Lowery.
Starring Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Sarita Choudhury, Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, and Ralph Ineson.
This ancient story is wrangled onto the screen by a visionary director, as Gawain (Dev Patel) chooses to face off against The Green Knight (Ralph Ineson). Featuring medieval monarchs, inspired visuals, and a hero in need of purpose, it harks back to simpler times when kingdoms could be won and lost on a whim.
There is something about David Lowery’s film which defies description. It combines elements of the quest narrative, segues into Arthurian pastiche, and throws in giants for good measure. The pacing is carefully considered, so that what feels slow to begin with, makes more sense as events progress. Smog filled wastelands, arid plains and waterlogged quagmires make up an ever changing landscape, bringing a unique reality to bear.
Plucked from the pages of medieval folklore before being made flesh, there is a sumptuous quality to the images conjured up by the director of photography Andrew Droz Palermo. Castle exteriors are foreboding yet formidable, landscapes barren yet in possession of a pulse. Lives have been lived, battles fought, and families left in mourning by the history engrained within this cinematic fable.
Dev Patel, Sean Harris, and Alicia Vikander are not so much forging character, as existing within a world wrought from legends. Conversations are whispered in confidence, banquets attended in strict accordance with hierarchy, while heroes are borne of blood. In many ways this harks back to the classical imagery depicted in Nordic poems such as Beowulf.
Feats of strength and trials of fortitude have been told around campfires for centuries, where individuals faced untenable odds or were asked to perform selfless acts of heroism. The Green Knight taps directly into that vein and mainlines it for two hours of genuine entertainment. Dev Patel’s Gawain is our hero out of time facing off against Ralph Ineson as The Green Knight. A mystical being in search of salvation yet burdened with purpose. It is their meeting and Gawain’s subsequent journey which provides the backbone to this fable in the simplest terms.
However, David Lowery does more with this than any audience might think possible. Doppelgangers, talking animals and Shakespearean mystics all play their part, while stylistic flourishes and fluctuating colour palettes keep the visuals interesting. In many ways The Green Knight feels like a film out of time, more suited to a golden era of Hollywood long since passed.
Films including The Lion In Winter, Camelot and Richard Burton’s Beckett feel more in keeping with The Green Knight, as David Lowery’s canvas is so broad. Sean Harris does much to underline this by carrying the weight of divine rule with a melancholy heart. Heavy hangs the head that wears the crown, as he remains perpetually separated from his subjects. Pitch battles are celebrated, wars have been waged and this world possesses an eternal quality, which has rarely been captured with such self-assurance.
Production designer Jade Healy, who worked most recently on Marriage Story and A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood, imbues this film with a lived in quality. Class divides are clear, gender definitions are male centric and yet women possess their own unique power. Whether that is manifested through the nuanced performance by Alicia Vikander, or reflected in Gawain’s mother, this film addresses identity on a multitude of levels.
David Hart’s score adds yet another layer of character to a film which comes alive in the silences between conversations. Organic auditory collisions punctuate scenes, giving the visuals an edgy quality, which never allows audiences to settle. Awkward encounters between Gawain and Joel Edgerton’s Lord, are gifted an additional resonance due to his haunting arrangements, that only gain in power over the running time.
To say that The Green Knight is a masterful piece of storytelling is selling it short. There is such complexity woven into its fabric, that repeat viewings are not only recommended but essential. For those who have fretted over the numerous delays fret no longer, because this was definitely worth the wait.
The Green Knight arrives in theatres and is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video from September 24th.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★