American director David Lowery (“A Ghost Story”, “The Last Gentleman”) has committed one of the most captivating films of the year. “The Green Knight” is a visually dreamy medieval adventure with a relationship to the Arthurian legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
Dev Patel is brilliant in the lead role, and Lowery’s meticulous world building is first class.
The story may seem a bit strange and confusing, where the film follows the original material’s rambling narrative structure, but definitely has an exciting uniqueness that makes “The Green Knight” stand out strongly from the knight films we have been served in recent times.
For example, it is closer to John Boorman’s “Excalibur” (1981) than Guy Ritchie’s “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” (2017), which is not a negative quality at all.
A strange challenge
The starting point is the poem “Sir Gawain and The Green Knight”, written by an unknown author in the late 14th century. Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) is the nephew of King Arthur (Sean Harris) and one of the Knights of the Round Table.
He has the good fortune to prove his qualities, and perhaps that is why he accepts a strange challenge from The Green Knight (Ralph Ineson), when he surprisingly appears at court. Sir Gawain must kill him with a sword, but the condition is that one year later he travels voluntarily to the Green Chapel to receive the same track wound.
When the time comes, Sir Gawain leaves the court and his poor mistress, Essel (Alicia Vikander), and embarks on a long journey north, where he will encounter several dangers, scary ghosts and mysterious personalities.
Beautiful and ominous pictures
David Lowery apparently stays quite close to the action of the original poem, but gives the main character room for development. Through Dev Patel’s great acting, we meet an, basically, immature and inexperienced Sir Gawain, who during the journey is faced with challenges and issues that force him to grow as a person.
It is not just about honor and morality, but also a sense of duty and responsibility. This story is told with beautiful and ominous pictures of both enchanting forests, dark ponds and old castles.
Along the way, he meets a nimble prey hunter (Barry Keoghan), mysterious Saint Winifred (Erin Kellyman), a hospitable Lord (Joel Edgerton) and his beautiful Lady (also played by Alicia Vikander), all of whom are important pieces in the film’s episodic structure.
A relevant portrait
“The Green Knight” offers a romanticized fairy tale version of old knight tales, but at the same time David Lowery and Dev Patel give this story a deeper layer that makes it interesting and engaging.
Through Sir Gawain’s search for his own manhood, a good portrait is drawn of an undeservedly privileged male person who seems relevant, even to a modern audience.
The film is brilliantly photographed, with several stylish backgrounds and visual touches that are almost mesmerizingly dark, beautiful and exciting. For example, who would have thought that forests and plains in the Middle Ages were shrouded in so much smoke?
“The Green Knight” is therefore a striking experience that is unlike anything else you have seen on film in recent times.