Gotta be honest here, I didn’t “get” this film as much as I probably should have, but great filmmaking goes a long way in appreciating a film like this.
Adapting the 14th-century poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the movie version of The Green Knight follows Gawain (Dev Patel) as he’s thrust into a deadly game with the titular avatar of this fantastical world. Told that he must travel to a specific location to receive the same punishment he bestowed upon the Green Knight during their first meeting, Gawain has one year to confront his fate — or run from it. Setting off on his journey, Gawain is met with an assortment of people both looking to hurt and help him, and as he gets closer to his final destination, Gawain must decide who he is and what he stands for as a man, or if he’s the coward many believe him to be.
First things first: this movie is confusing as hell. Not confusing in the traditional sense of the word where bad scripting and filmmaking muddle a story that’s nonsensical at best, but confusing mostly because this is more or less an indie film wrapped in a fine layer of Hollywood filmmaking mentality. Coming from writer/director David Lowrey, The Green Knight toes the line between a full-blown fantasy epic and a more thought-provoking and personal story about a man that clearly needs some life lessons, leaving audiences firmly in the middle of what they’re experiencing.
A bit unorthodox in its storytelling throughout, this film is all about Gawain’s harrowing journey and the people and pitfalls he encounters along the way. Trekking through a land that’s littered with enough mystical and magical elements to entertain as well as service the story when needed (even though I wish there was a bit more of it overall), Gawain is a character that swings from being entirely capable to being completely in over his head as the story progresses, giving the film a great sense of danger, but also grinding its pacing to a halt more often than expected when Gawain isn’t doing much.
Weird enough in its adaptation which ends up pushing the final cut into a more artistic representation of its King Arthur-related story, yet comprehensive enough to encompass a whole lot of content that felt both necessary and over-indulgent depending on the scene, The Green Knight is a film that lives and dies by the audience’s interpretation of what in the actual fuck is going on. Being unfamiliar with the original poem, the learning curve for this film was a steep one to be sure, but one worth the effort put forth if you care enough to really understand what’s happening, making this a viewing experience that’s as unique as it is frustrating at times.
Bolstered by a visual style that isn’t doing the vagueness of the script any favors, this film is objectively well done to a point that even when not clear in its storytelling, audiences always have something intriguing to look at. And although the pacing is a bit sluggish at times and some scenes are definitely a bore to watch, there’s just enough going on that seeing the filmmakers pull off a story like this becomes something you can’t help but appreciate and become enthralled with.
Confusion aside, this is a really well-done film pretty much any way you cut it, even though having some background knowledge on the original poem might help a bit in understanding what you’re watching. It looks great, is directed well, and is acted even better, and while the story sometimes feels a bit vaguer and “indie” in its execution than it needed to be, it can’t be denied that The Green Knight is the kind of film that needs to be made way more often.