The Green Knight’s Quasi Triumph

There’s nothing like watching a new movie in which you have no expectations or context.

Regarding The Green Knight, I may have been in a more undemanding position than my friend who already went in with a vast foreknowledge of this 14-century, Arthurian chivalric poem, entitled Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (author unknown). Where he had to decipher the validity behind the infamous “the-book-is-always-better” debate, I was a blank canvas and enjoyed every sight, sound, and underlying theme that unfolded before me on the screen.

This is the kind of film that speaks through shadowy cinematography and a haunting score that syncs with boot plods in the mud and raindrops to a puddle. The pace is tempered to a journey by foot while the virtues of knighthood – generosity, chastity, and piety – are tested by one fascinating character after another.

No underlying theme is as black and white as the dense forest and blank plains our sketchy hero in Gawain (Dev Patel) has to toil through. The theme of honor in chivalry is both glorified and debunked. Some themes get muddled by witchcraft. Some, according to my friend, are added or subtracted by the likes of director David Lowery, who carefully blends fantastical whim with the whim of human nature. Whether it was included in the original poem or not, Gawain is given opportunities to foresee a future both without him and with him without a clean heart.

Dev Patel as Sir Gawaine

As if it were a medieval Charles Dickens ploy, the portrayal of a “changed man” seems to kindle hope in the viewer, but Lowery prefers a darker tone in the end – one similar to Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ. And, to add more challenge to the viewers’ content filter, there is a cornucopia of Christian, pagan, feminist, and aesthetic innuendos both intended or interpreted, hidden or placed under the spotlight. The execution of these themes is both glaring and murky, and that may exactly be the point: The mystique is in the mist.

I want to say that faith and believing in God over the human will is the point, but there’s a better movie in here than a central lesson or a message, and I have to remind myself that movies do not have to have lessons or messages. They are to invoke feelings. (Roger Ebert, rest in peace.)

Have you ever seen Brown Bunny (2003) or Somewhere (2010)?

I realize a comparison to these two films is out of left field, but the point I’m trying to make is that The Green Knight is an alluring and somewhat enjoyable experience despite a missing context and a clear motif. Yes, it is a gloomy venture that could use a dash of humor, but it instigates conversation afterwards and stays with you the next day, as you wait to talk to the next person who has seen it.

Please let me know if you have!


Reely Bernie

15 thoughts on “The Green Knight’s Quasi Triumph

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    1. Great review. There is a lot to unravel just as a movie without a context, but having foreknowledge of the poem made way to fun and controversial interpretation choices that could have been over the top. I actually thought tones and themes were wisely subtle. But, yes, as episodic as it kind of had to be, it is “part of the idiom,” as you say. Still one of my favorite experiences in the theatre this year thus far! Happy Friday Junior!

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    1. Oh no! It’s definitely worth a look. How are things in the U.K. regarding the Delta variant? We’re going back to school tomorrow with no mask mandate, but I can see that changing in a week…

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      1. All restrictions lifted across the UK, masks to be worn in busy public places, infection numbers high, hospital numbers managable, death rate still a little higher than we’d like. There’s no politicising of masks or vaccines over here, so depite many examples of shonky leadership, we’re headed out of the pandemic, but it’ll be a long, hard climb…masks are about the only way to slow the spead, so don’t throw them away!

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        1. Couldn’t agree more! Glad I kept mine, haha! Our students only get quarantined if they are not vaccinated. I’m going into this school year without expectations, solid plans, or disappointments, haha!

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          1. Good luck! This time last year, things were very much fragile, and the winter of chaos was inevitable. But this time, well, you either got the jab or not, and there’s nothing more that can be done to protect the public. So no more lockdowns, but sadly, there will be a lot of people who die before their time…

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            1. So true. I’m starting to forget what life was like before all this started. With a baby on top of the world madness, it’s all a blur. Just grateful to be alive and healthy. Time for movies is very limited, but when I can get in that theatre, it’s a peaceful escape for two hours. I wish you well and will continue to be in touch, and I always enjoy your eclectic movie reviews!

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    1. I thought of you while writing this because you have such a passion for prose and history like this. My friend went berserk about all the references and interpretations, and part of me wished I had read the poem beforehand (while the other part was extremely relieved, haha). I do wonder about your opinion…

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