Director: David Lowery
Starring:Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Barry Keoghan, Sean Harris, Joel Edgerton, Ralph Ineson, Sarita Choudhury, Kate Dickie .USA/Canada. 2h 5m
With everyone and the dog wanting to reboot classical literature and and give it some kind of modern twist, we can be thankful that David Lowery didn’t take easy route of , yet another, King Arthur retelling, as I find it hard to find anything that comes close to John Boorman‘s glittery Excalibur (1981) Instead Lowery casts his poetic eye over an equally aged text that, for some reason, is more enchanting but remains lesser known. The adaptation of the 14th century chivalric romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight into film has masterfully crafted into one of the more memorable films of the year.
There’s an elevated sense of artistic storytelling within Lowery’s incredible movie, which retells the original text and hints at the theories that have developed after. The esoteric tale manages to weave a spell on screen and enchants the memory, causing ideas and theories to roam around in the viewer’s innermost thoughts.
Starting on a fateful Christmas day, Sir Gwain (Patel) visits his uncle King Arthur (Harris) and his wife (Dickie), while at court his mother Morgan La Fae (Choudhury ) is weaving a macabre spell and appears to call forth the Green Knight (Ineson),an imposing figure who is in essence the Green Man, he wants to play a Christmas Game, the rules are simple, one of Arthur’s knights is allowed to strike him, if they can, the night will get the green knights weapon in exchange, but in one year, the knight must travel to the Green Chapel and the the Green Knight will return the exact strike. Gawain steps forwards, is reminded that it’s a GAME!! and beheads the green knight.. ( the balls on this guy) The Green knight doesn’t seem phased, retrieves his head and heads home to his chapel laughing at the Gawain.
The movie cuts past Gawain’s year of good fortunes and soon enough it’s nearly Christmas again and he has to make a pilgrimage to the Green Chapel, where he encounters some strange characters in a dreamlike isle. He’s robbed by some cunning mediaeval chavs lead by Barry Keoghan,. He chances upon a ghostly girl in the woods, giants in the valleys and shakes up the relationship between a king and queen (Edgerton/ Vikander).
The story deviates from the older that you may have studied at school, and it’s a strange deviation which regains a similar sentiment, and gives the audience a similar something to mull over in realms of morals and honesty. The final showdown between Gawian and the Green Knight is short and more ethereal and thorough than being a full out boss fight but gives the film a ghoulish ending, something to continue with the fairytale dreamlike atmosphere leaving any viewer trapped in a never ending spell.
I feel a lot of actors were pushed by (director), resulting in at least one of their best performances, and that’s a stretch for some of the more seasoned actors, even Dickie with her tiny role still gives a truly magnificent show as the doting wife who becomes possessed by the Knight in one eerie scene.
Frequently the film goes off on a tangent and feels different on each step of Gawain’s path to enlightenment but this leads to a film that is always reinventing itself and shifting and changing as much as any life path does. If you’re into having your mind opened through visual experiences think of Excalibur vs the Fountain, then this will stretch you through a dream, unfortunately it’s getting slated for not being the next Lord of the Rings.. Thankfully it’s not that kind of film.
Related: Excalibur (1981), The Fountain (2006), November (2017),
Lists: Modern Fantasy
Spotlight: Joel Edgerton