Film & TV

‘The Green Knight’ is a Surrealistic Masterpiece

Featured Video Play Icon

“The Green Knight” opens with Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) sitting on a throne, adorned with a regal yellow robe, holding a staff and ornament in his hands as he stares straight into the camera. Slowly, a crown descends from the top of the screen, as if an offering from the heavens. Once the crown rests on Gawain, his head engulfs into flames. The camera stays on this incredible image, haunting the viewers. The screen cuts to black. 

Gawain’s journey has only just begun. 

With David Lowery — one of Hollywood’s most unique directors — at the helm, combined with a strong cast and A24 distributing, the movie was primed for success. COVID attempted to behead this behemoth but “The Green Knight” emerged victorious, finally hitting screens after a year of delays. Thankfully, the wait was more than worth it.

Smart, stunning and seductive, “The Green Knight” is a rich and meditative Arthurian adventure, featuring a career-best Patel and a tale so beautifully complex, it’ll have viewers thinking about it long after they exit the theater. 

Sir Gawain, nephew of King Arthur, wakes up alongside his lover, Essel (Alicia Vikander), in a brothel on Christmas morning. Refusing to grow-up, Gawain is berated by his mother (Sarita Choudhury) for his inappropriate actions. He attends the Christmas feast hosted by his uncle, but the festivities are interrupted by the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) — a half-human, half-tree creature — who challenges the other knights to a game. 

In an attempt to prove his worth, Gawain volunteers to take part in the dangerous game. Things don’t go as planned and Gawain finds himself bound to meet the Green Knight in one year. The rest of this epic follows the brash Arthurian knight on his quest as he finds scavengers, spirits and himself. 

Lowery (“A Ghost Story,” “Pete’s Dragon”) subverts all expectations with his masterful direction. “The Green Knight” isn’t your typical medieval film with sword fighting and monologues. It’s devoid of battle scenes and features long stretches with little to no dialogue — and the movie doesn’t falter. In fact, it works because of its languid nature. 

Each frame in this movie feels like a painting. Lowery and cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo (“A Ghost Story,” “A Teacher”) capture the Irish landscape in an alluring fashion. There are scenes that are flat-out gorgeous, others that are frightening and some that are both, like the opening scene. Palermo — the film’s dark horse MVP — crafts a visual experience that allows Lowery to tell the slow paced coming-of-age story he wants. 

The movie excels in its quieter parts: long scenes of Gawain riding his horse, encountering giants, escaping from scavengers and eluding any desires. To some, these parts may seem boring or directionless when, in fact, this is the epitome of Lowery’s cinema. He wants the audience to be confused and frustrated. 

The film is not about Gawain’s destination — it’s about how he gets there. Once viewers accept that, Lowery’s epic is nothing short of a marvel. 

Gawain is a tricky character: he’s entitled, reckless and easy to hate. The charming Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “Lion”) is up to the task with Gawain, though. He’s able to take this complicated figure, imbue him with chivalry and humanity and win over the audience. Patel’s expressions — especially in the film’s unbelievable climax — are more powerful than any soliloquy Lowery could’ve written. 

Vikander (“The Danish Girl,” “Ex Machina”) stars in a double role, one as Essel and another as a mysterious Lady he meets late in his journey. While Essel doesn’t leave a strong impact, the Lady is a force to be reckoned with. She’s given the film’s sole monologue — a beautiful one about the color green — and Vikander delivers it with confidence and pain. The Oscar winner plays the role of a temptress exceptionally by being equally scary and enticing. 

The rest of the cast are in top form, becoming their characters in Lowery’s beguiling world.

Fortunately, the director chooses to design the Green Knight with practical effects. He looks formidable — no one stands a chance against him. 

Lowery’s brilliance lies in the intricacies and surrealism, similar to “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Mulholland Drive,” blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. The objective of this movie is to give into Lowery and his vision, submit to Gawain and his memorable journey. Accept the mystery.

The narrator in the opening sequence demonically says, “This isn’t a simple tale of honor and glory.” That couldn’t be more true. After all, heavy lies the head that wears the crown. 

“The Green Knight,” rated R, is now playing in theaters.

(Visited 384 times, 3 visits today)
Next Story