David Lowery‘s The Green Knight brings new life to an old story of mythology with swords and sorcery, and it casts its spell on you. This adaptation of the King Arthur tale is mysterious and unexpected. On paper, it’s a quest of self-discovery that unfolds as Gawain embarks on a journey to the Green Chapel, but I don’t think anyone walking into the theater had in mind quite what they were about to see.
It’s the kind of film that’s challenging to describe to someone who hasn’t seen it. For some films, I really like going in pretty blind without much background knowledge on past adaptations or related projects. In another sense, I think it’s beneficial to do a little research on King Arthur and the original story of the titular Green Knight because the film assumes you already have a working understanding of the premise. Ultimately, either approach will work, leaving you to enjoy your own equally perplexing and moving experience.
A knight made of wood, naked stone giants, and a CGI talking fox. It’s a surprising conglomeration of ideas and storylines that form a complete and tidy package. Oh, and it’s Christmas. In the sense that there is so much whimsy and cinematic chaos happening at once, I’ll liken it to Game of Thrones or The Chronicles of Narnia in that sense (meaning that as a compliment to the success of it tying together so many strands of separate storylines).
Very much Dev Patel’s film, he is onscreen for pretty much the entire film. This is his movie, and he demands your attention with his one-of-a-kind presence. If this isn’t proof that he deserves more leading roles, I’m not sure what is. I know everyone has been awaiting this for Patel’s performance, specifically, and he truly delivers on that front.
Oh my goodness, the score is beyond incredible. Daniel Hart composed the music for the film, and simply put, it was terrifying. It haunted me to my core and I was effectively shaken up by the swells and shrill note changes of the instruments. It really elevated the thrilling aspect and took the suspense to a level that visuals alone couldn’t quite achieve. Combining elements from the Middle Ages period with classic horror film scores made for a really bold addition.
There are conversations Gawain has and moments of the story that feel irrelevant at the time, but they get called back on later in the film that make every little thing carry its own importance. The beauty is really in the details.
I found the way that the story was broken up into “chapters” to be interesting but ultimately a little unnecessary as no time really passes between the chapters. It typically just rolls right into the next segment, and I don’t think the anthology approach added much to the concept.
Long stretches of wordless shots occupy The Green Knight leaving you to sit back and marvel at the dazzling canvas that lies on the screen before you. It’s a slow burn, that’s for sure. Nothing is moving very fast at all. Even the dialogue slowly pours out of the characters. There are underlying lessons of temptation, chivalry, and morality that manifest themselves in ways that are both on the nose but also extremely subtle.
If this isn’t at least in the running for every single award for cinematography next year, I might riot. Every. Single. Frame. I want them all on the walls of my house. The use of lighting is a delight in itself, leaning in to the darkness and illuminating parts of the shot in ways I’ve never seen done. Ticking every single box in the optics department, it’s nothing less than a visual masterpiece.
The colors were so bold and so vibrant, and the textures were so rich and amplified that I honestly felt like I could reach out my hand and feel that golden cloak or pet that crimson fox. The imagery was nothing if not dazzling.
The story itself may not be as mystifying as one might hope, but it more than makes up for it with the telling of the story. Every step of the way is intriguing, and while I did start to notice the runtime near the end, it was inspiring how each minute was utilized in such impressively impactful ways.
I can definitely foresee that people won’t find this very accessible, and that just might have to be alright since that wasn’t really the intention here. The Green Knight isn’t a fun, upbeat movie about a knight on a quest with a shiny sword and pretty white horse. This movie is definitely open to a variety of interpretations, all valid and different, almost demanding that you talk about it with other people who have seen the film afterwords.
The Green Knight is a haunting and offbeat adaptation of King Arthur lore that comes together utilizing unparalleled and inventive cinematic techniques to form a gem of visuals and wonder. I feel that I could watch this five more times (I just might do it), and my appreciation for this film would only grow.
The Green Knight is now playing in theaters nationwide.