Combustible Celluloid
 
With: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Barry Keoghan, Erin Kellyman, Helena Browne, Emilie Hetland, Anthony Morris, Megan Tiernan
Written by: David Lowery
Directed by: David Lowery
MPAA Rating: R for violence, some sexuality and graphic nudity
Running Time: 130
Date: 07/30/2021
IMDB

The Green Knight (2021)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Knight Vision

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Many movies have been made around the legend of King Arthur and his knights, but none quite like this strange, entrancing adventure, with its dreamlike touches, stirring movements, and quiet poetry.

Before he was a "sir," Gawain (Dev Patel) attends a Christmas celebration hosted by his uncle, the King (Sean Harris). The King asks to hear a story, but Gawain has none to tell. Suddenly, a strange being, a tree shaped like a man, enters. This "green knight" offers a game: whosoever dares to strike him with their sword wins his powerful axe, but then he must meet the Green Knight again in a year's time to receive a return blow. Gawain volunteers, and, with the King's sword severs the Green Knight's head.

However, the Green Knight simply picks up his severed head, and rides off, laughing. A year later, Gawain realizes he must keep his bargain, or else face shame and dishonor. He rides off on a strange and incredible adventure, facing bandits, giants, ghosts, enchantments, and more. And at the end of it, he must face the Green Knight once more, and possibly lose his life.

Prior to The Green Knight, director David Lowery has also made a neo-Western, a children's fantasy about a dragon, an existential ghost story, and a true-crime story; this wide array of genres all showcase his special style, gentle, observant, and yet with a touch of the impossible. After the encounter with the woodsy title character in this movie, Lowery lets us know that virtually anything can happen on Gawain's noble quest, and he fulfills that promise. Here, our hero can meet a cunning thief (a scene-stealing Barry Keoghan), a talking fox, a headless ghost, or a band of traveling giants.

All of it feels genuinely imaginative and weirdly cohesive, perhaps touching a bit on the filmic styles of Kubrick or Malick, but also diving into the uncharted unknown. Lowery even refrains from ever mentioning the familiar names "King Arthur," "Guinevere," or "Morgan le Fay," deepening the dream-like feel.

Throughout, The Green Knight also wonders about the central purpose of Gawain's quest. Just what does honor actually mean, and what does it cost? What is the point of the Green Knight's game, if it has any point? And — as Alicia Vikander's character Essel wonders — why do we search for greatness, when goodness might be good enough?

Truth be told, I'm not sure I completely absorbed, or understood, this film on a single viewing, but it will continue to rattle through my brain over the coming months, or until I get a chance to see it again.

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