Quick-Thoughts: David Lowery’s The Green Knight

“Is this really all there is?”

“What else would there be?”

Haven’t needed to rewatch a movie in theaters in order to review it in a long, long time, but here we are. My thoughts on this film feel quite collected now. 

The Green Knight is super, super original, yet it appears as if it could’ve been based off of an ancient fable torn straight out of some wisdom text. In fact, its source material kind of is that, being an Authurian 14th-century story written by an unknown author that has been reinterpreted over centuries to a point of creating its own lineage of individual stories, and thus bringing forth the existence of this film. Coming from the director behind A Ghost Story (2017), the lifted, floaty feel of this movie is no surprise, as we’re being suspended into unsure realities or abstract hallucinations on Gawain’s (nephew of King Arthur’s) quest for honor as an alleged knight. Andrew Droz Palermo’s cinematography takes us on a very breathable and artificially colorful adventure full of surreal, mythological beings as if this were an acid-trip rendition of LOTR but with a minimalism on the dorky dialogue or logistics of the world and more at the gazes of “awe” in its striking and multi-interpretable scenery. Many could see this movie as being a straightforward series of “pass or fail” stages that our main character is tested on, yet the film is pretty ambiguous towards if those stages are based off traditional blueprints or designed for the specific character who undergoes them, disclosing the journey as maybe an internally crafted fiction as our supposed “knight” character endures a literal psychosis dream with simple actions that expose inner truths about himself and what they could mean for the future if he weren’t to acknowledge them. There’s a bit of philosophy to this in regards to if sudden, innate, repeated actions can unveil anything of a truer story rather than the one’s that end up carved in books that we’re expected to believe.

To me, the trials that Gawain pushes through in The Green Knight are less so to sternly confirm his actions as a “pass or fail” series of unchangeable revelations, but more so used to teach him something about his own character, aspects about what ultimatums could bring upon the kingdom based only on his contemporary personality, and most importantly, if he is currently of the design of a knight or not, and if not, how is he to make up for it through the lessons he learns of what one truly is and the awareness of his own perilous character. Like the famous saying, failure is obviously what teaches someone how not to fail again. This isn’t a story about a knight, it’s about the training that leads one to become a knight. But, that’s not the only story Lowery is telling. There’s a lot of humanity to the way he rationalizes how the outcome of your image is enough to justify how you pave life itself, whether or not if it’s more important than welfare or invincibility — that selfish protective belt you wear over to negate bravery — for which is something quite easy for us to instinctively savor and abuse in. Essentially, would you rather live a beautiful lie, or die a neutral yet honorary truth?

In countless tales of legends often disclosed at campfires or bedsides of younglings inspired to become these fables’ leads, maybe the more truthful ones about those who grow into heroes for themselves are the stories most inspiring rather than the ones based on those gifted with innate righteousness for all others. Maybe an ego-change could be the true savior of a celebrated story. Knowing of a future destiny is one thing, but to be convinced by the self that that destiny is completed with honor seems to be one of the important lessons in The Green Knight, to not let just the view of others be the only thing that convinces you of your character but to respect the accuracy of said depicted character. In view of this quest in all its shortcomings, all its divulgings of realities, and all its overcomings for a man’s instant desires, Gawain the Knight confronts possible futures all while trying to understand what they mean in the end or what their worth is to either the individual, to the kingdom, and to the image of what others may only forever know him as.

Verdict: B+

2021 Ranked

“The Green Knight” is now playing in theaters.

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