The Green Knight (2021) July 17th, 2021
It’s difficult for me to criticize an A24 film. I, like a lot of people, was blown away by Ex Machina in 2015 and they’ve continued to produce at the highest levels. The Lobster, Eighth Grade, and The VVitch are lighthouses of creativity in the tropical storm of shallow mediocrity Hollywood regularly cranks out. The Green Knight is yet another beautifully creative cinematic experience from A24’s laureled studio.
Although it’s based on the Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain of the round table, The Green Knight spends no time establishing any of that lore by name. There’s no mention of Camelot, Merlin, Arthur, or his famous sword Excalibur. Gawain’s story, as portrayed in The Green Knight does take place in a castle, with a face-tattooed pagan wizard serving a king with a round table and a mighty sword… yet they all remain unidentified.
The Green Knight isn’t trying to be a scholarly retelling of the Arthurian legend, it’s no Excalibur, instead it is a meditation on fairytales and fantasy. The world in The Green Knight is irrational. Miraculous events happen without justification or explanation. Gawain, played by Dev Patel, seeks glory during the King’s Christmas Day celebration by decapitating the mysterious Green Knight who’s unexpected arrival interrupted the festivities. Gawain watches as the headless horseman picks up his noggin and rides away laughing while reminding his opponent of their pregame agreement, that in one years time they’ll meet in The Green Chapel and the strike received will be returned in kind. No one asks where the Green Knight came from, how can he survive such a strike or if the terms of the game were legitimate.
Events in The Green Knight happen without explanation and somehow that doesn’t hold the film back. A fox can talk, a missing axe reappears on its own, a herd of naked giants wanders the land and none of it is justified. It might be the closest a film can get to the feeling of being read a fairytale. How did a witch build a house out of gingerbread and sweets? What kind of bears live in a house? Why would anyone sell magic beans, gateways to a giant’s kingdom ripe for looting, to a farm boy for a single cow? These story’s fall apart under the slightest analysis and scrutinizing them is to kill a mockingbird.
It isn’t my favorite A24 film but it is everything a good film should be. Well acted, well shot, well produced and interesting. God help you if you can’t find joy in a film this well made. .
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