After more than a year of abstaining from movie theaters, as well as keeping up with new releases (since we were all so incredibly overwhelmed by the tumultuous year that was 2020), I was finally able to screen a new movie in the manner that of how this medium was originally intended: on the big screen, sitting among strangers. I can say unequivocally that it was good to be back!
The Green Knight is unlike any other fantasy adaptation that I have screened throughout my life. Abandoning the traditional methods used for films among the likes of Harry Potter, The Wizard of Oz, or The Lord of the Rings, the film takes an unnatural approach through unusual cinematography and editing (perhaps to best emphasize the surrealism of medieval legends), akin to the films of Paul Thomas Anderson, Terrence Malick, or the newly recognized Ari Aster (Heredity and Midsommer). While this film is a fantasy in terms of setting and events, it also blends a thought-provoking arthouse air with what is presented.
I will be completely forthcoming and share that I did not understand many aspects of this movie. Despite this, I will hail it as fantastic. Why? Because it reminds me of the genre usually produced by the artists I previously mentioned. And like the works of Anderson, Malick, and Aster, I anticipate an analysis to be made available, and I will gain a further appreciation for this piece.
This is not an entirely faithful adaptation of the legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (rarely can one adapt one medium while retaining every aspect of its source material). However, there are many instances in which those behind the movie were able to adapt the original poetic dialogue of the epic in a manner fitting for a motion picture, the lines able to convey the grandness of the subject at hand. To be fair, the only way I was able to notice these differences were by looking up the summary of the original epic, the last time I read it was during my British literature class senior year of high school (okay, I was assigned it and just listened to my teacher and classmates discuss it. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has done that).
For me, the greatest satisfaction came in the depiction of the title character, the Green Knight. Going back to my high school years, if this story ever came to mind, I would wonder how this character would be portrayed. How would he be green? What would give him the recognition and terror that was woven into his identity? Enter a man who appears to be a hybrid between human and tree, and a bellowing English countryside voice (provided by Ralph Ineson). The Knight requires an appearance that would make him inhuman and terrifying. How else could we justify a character who, upon challenging Gawain and the rest of King Arthur’s court to chop off his head, was able to arise and carry said head off with him? (Not a complete spoiler, as this is the central driving plot of the original epic poem)
In short, I urge everyone who appreciates the fantasy and arthouse genre to see The Green Knight. Above all, I urge all of us to search for an analysis of the movie that will give us a greater appreciation. While many pieces of art embrace what appear to be bizarre and nonsensical (think Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody), a proper walkthrough can make us fall in love with the unusual.