The Green Knight (2021)

The Green Knight (2021) Cover

The Green Knight is the 2021 film directed by David Lowery, who previously helmed A Ghost Story, and is the latest film from indie juggernaut A24. This dark fantasy film from Lowery is based on (or at least inspired by) the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, which is a chivalric romance poem from the late 14th century. Lowery implements the Arthurian lore of the poem in service of a more mysterious, ontological, and cerebral exploration of morality and existence through the conduit of a classical Medieval story. Lowery’s film is not so interested in the steely knights and dragons of the story, as it is in delivering a more metaphysical and philosophical metaphor through the symbols of its source material. As such, the film utilizes a deliberate and artful approach towards the narrative, focusing on reflective and dreamlike fantasy imagery and visual storytelling to carry its messages and themes. The Green Knight takes its source material and elevates it to an artistic allegory with layers of meaning that are open to several interpretations, and uses fantasy as a means of tackling broader, heftier themes. Although the film feels like it could have a tighter script in some regards and a bit more stylistic consistency, The Green Knight is a challenging, thought-provoking, and unmistakably ambitious endeavor from director David Lowery and the cast.

The Green Knight features an ensemble of talented performers, even though most of the performances feel more like means to the end of this film’s messages. Most importantly, however, is Dev Patel as Sir Gawain, a knight bent on proving his worth. While I think there are some other performers that come to mind that could take on this role more wholly, Patel was nevertheless often engaging and powerful as Gawain. Also excellent here is Alicia Vikander, who is particularly stellar in one of the film’s more intriguing and important monologues. Joel Edgerton, Sarita Chaudhary, Sean Harris, and Erin Kellyman all round out the solid supporting cast as well.

On paper, The Green Knight is the bona fide Arthurian story of a knight on a quest to prove his worth. However, it’s writer/director David Lowery’s reimagining of this story as a singularly contemporary moral and existential tale that gives the film its new bite. While the film features all the visual and narrative elements of a classic epic fantasy, Lowery’s darker tonality and the film’s cerebral themes lend to a more contemplative and enigmatic cinematic experience that challenges the idea and mythos of a hero. Using distinct visual language and a more artful take on the story gives The Green Knight a sense of unique new life, even if its pacing can make the film feel a bit stretched and its stylization can sometimes feel inconsistent. Reaching into the wells of classic storytelling and drawing a more layered allegorical interpretation from it is what gives The Green Knight its sense of freshness. This is a dark, deliberate, cerebral, and ambitious film - it’s a far cry away from mainstream fantasy or medieval films, but its peculiar intellect gives the film its snap.

Final Verdict:The Green Knight is an ambitious, cerebral, and thought-provoking meditation on existence and morality told through the conduit of a visually astute Arthurian dark fantasy story.