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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

‘The Green Knight’ or how I learned to stop worrying and accept my fate

Emma Kirner
Emma Kirner

David Lowery’s “The Green Knight” is not a swashbuckling, chivalric epic rife with sword fights and fantastical creatures. Instead, “The Green Knight” offers the audience a sobering meditation on mortality, accepting one’s fate and what it truly means to live an honorable life. This is not a standard Arthurian film but rather stands on its own as something truly special.

The film follows Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), the nephew of King Arthur (Sean Harris), as he journeys through the final year of his life. On Christmas Day, the King throws a lavish banquet for the Knights of the Round Table, and to Gawain’s surprise, he is asked to sit at Arthur's side. Arthur asks Gawain to tell him a story of Gawain’s exploits. Gawain is ashamed to admit that he does not yet have any to tell. Moments later, a supernatural Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) bursts into the hall and proposes a game: lay a blow on him and receive fame, fortune and his ax, but in one year, the challenger must seek out the Green Knight and allow him to return the exact blow he was dealt. Gawain accepts the challenge and in a moment of nervous overzealousness beheads the Green Knight. A year passes, and Gawain must ride north to seek out the Green Chapel and face the Green Knight.

The bulk of the film follows Gawain as he travels northward across a surreal and unpredictable landscape that verges on dreamlike. Fantastical sights and sounds abound along Gawain’s journey, all of which have an aura of sheer awe surrounding them. We see the world with the wide-eyed wonder of someone who has not yet truly seen the wonders and tribulations of the real world and must take them all in, for it is the last time they will ever be seen by the viewer. It’s a strange sensation and creates a link between the audience and Gawain that is seldom found. This sensation is bolstered by Patel’s incredibly vulnerable performance, which is carried primarily in his physicality and his eyes rather than in dialogue. “The Green Knight” is rich with details, symbols and mysteries that will provide even the most well-versed viewer with something to contemplate long after they leave the theater.

Each chapter and encounter in the film reveals a new layer to Gawain’s character as we watch him grow to become the brave knight that he pretended he was for so long. Above all else, “The Green Knight” is a coming-of-age film, albeit a very dark one in which the main character must face his own death for an entire year and learn to accept his fate. This film carries within it a somberness not found in other Arthurian films and is all the better for daring to be different.

Lowery shows his mastery of both visual storytelling and screenwriting from the very first shot of “The Green Knight.” Cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo ensures that every shot in “The Green Knight”  is achingly beautiful. This, in conjunction with Daniel Hart’s amazing score, stands to make “The Green Knight” the most beautiful film of the year.

A 600 word review cannot do “The Green Knight” justice. I'd need to write a book to even begin to scratch the surface. I haven't been able to stop thinking about this film since I saw it. Do yourself a favor and watch “The Green Knight” on the biggest screen you can find and pay a visit to the Green Chapel alongside Sir Gawain. I promise it will be an experience you'll not soon forget.

“The Green Knight” plays at DPAC from Sept. 23 to Sept. 26.


Title: “The Green Knight”

Starring: Dev Patel, Ralph Ineson, Sean Harris

Director: David Lowery

If you like: “A Ghost Story,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “The Seventh Seal”

Shamrocks: 5 out of 5