“Arise and shine. Arise and fulfill your destiny.” – Lailah Gifty Akita
I think it’s necessary for the sake of transparency to preface this review by saying The Green Knight is the kind of film in need of research and multiple viewings in order to fully understand it. Since it’s barely being released as I write this, that’s mildly difficult to accomplish. Maybe I can revisit this once I’ve had an opportunity to see it again. Until then, this is my understanding of what I saw after only a single screening. What I end up saying here and now may be way off looking back in hindsight.
If I could summarize this film in a single thought I think this would be a fitting description: The Green Knight is about fulfillment of destiny. It is the realization that action and consequence are absolute truths.
In the beginning the king shows our hero, Gawain, King Arthur’s nephew, an act of solitude by embracing him on Christmas morning. As the king tells Gawain his destiny awaits him, almost as if destiny itself heard the call, a burst into the room of the round table reveals a creature of immense stature. It enters with prospects of a “game” that promises action of equal consequence. It asks that any one knight of the round table be brave enough, may they step forward and fight this creature and try to defeat it. Should the knight succeed, this creature, known as the Green Knight, would face this same knight one year later on the understanding that whatever the knight does to him, he will do to the knight in return. A cut for a cut, a stab for a stab, a head for a head. Let the game begin…
It sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Well this particular telling of knights and mystical beings is anything but. On his journey, Gawain, played commandingly and brilliantly by Dev Patel, will encounter things he never could have dreamt of in his deepest sleep or in the farthest reaches of his mind. Giants and talking foxes, wizards and spirits roam on his path to a destiny he wants nothing to do with. Still, he perseveres. This is what a knight does after all. For every physical obstacle he faces he must confront an internal battle raging within himself. He must challenge things he isn’t even convinced are real or if they’re thrusting themselves from his mind to stoke a fire that is immense self-doubt about who he truly is and who he will be remembered as in the history of time. Knowing his likely fate, but fearing the judgement of time, he still presses on, knowing.
Much of this story is presented in an ethereal manner. It feels as if a tale is being told around the flickering of a campfire as everyone leans forward with bated breath. Now imagine the storyteller is on shrooms and you can begin to imagine the head trip that is The Green Knight. It features long takes as the camera sways with a kind of purpose that is never in a rush to arrive at the next moment. It will sit in a moment of time to completely relish in the environment and feeling that is bursting in every scene. The setting of a wild forest is every bit as intimidating as the creatures that inhabit it. The mystery of what could be hiding behind any given tree is almost too much to bear. Our hero feels alone but is rarely ever so. When he is by himself he still must carry the weight of his own mind and the thoughts plaguing him with uncertainty.
Anyone familiar with A24 films might say this is a typical arthouse effort for them that meanders rather than arriving at a point of some kind. I can’t completely disagree but I’m very much about the journey itself rather than hoping for a swift finish. I’m in it for the story someone wants to tell and in the case of The Green Knight, writer and director David Lowery has no desire for a shortcut to a finale we all suspect is inescapable for our hero, Gawain. In the end it is not about the conclusion of our hero’s journey but how he arrives there in a condition befitting a brave knight or a coward.
Then again, this movie is off its rocker so I might be way off too. Time will tell. (insert shoulder shrug)
Rated R For: violence, some sexuality and graphic nudity
Runtime: 125 minutes
After Credits Scene: Yes. It’s brief but it’s there.
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
Starring: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury
Directed By: David Lowery
Out of 10 Nerdskulls
Story: 8/ Acting: 9/ Directing: 9/ Visuals: 10
OVERALL: 8.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes.
Check out the trailer below:
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