Visually impressive and very weird, David Lowery’s film is set in the time of Arthurian legend and it is very atmospheric and heavy with symbolism. I enjoyed it, though it is slow and parts of it were fairly inscrutable.
Dev Patel plays young Sir Gawain, who stands out from the court of King Arthur when he accepts the challenge of the Green Knight, a supernatural entity brought to marvelous life by Ralph Ineson under a ton of make-up and aided by a soundtrack of rustling trees and creaking bark marking every move. He arrives one Christmas to find a challenger who can land a strike on him and then receive back the same strike one year later. Gawain succeeds, and when the time comes, he goes to confront the Green Knight at the behest of an aging King Arthur (Sean Harris).
What follows is a weird journey through a medieval countryside where the theme seems to be the never-ending struggle by civilization to stamp out nature, yet the green always comes back. Gawain encounters highwaymen, ghosts and a couple who seem to symbolize the coming enlightenment. The visuals are always great, heavy with foreboding and gloom, which reflect the turmoil in Gawain as he confronts his own cowardice time and again.
It’s not a perfect movie and it is perhaps a bit too slow in some places and a bit too on-the-nose in others, but for an atmospheric piece it succeeds brilliantly. The cinematography and the art direction, the costumes, the music, the score and sound are all very evocative of a dark, creepy world of weirdness that isn’t always explained. It doesn’t have very compelling characters, everyone seems to serve a function more than existing organically, but I believe the whole film exists largely on an allegorical plane. Your enjoyment will depends on how well you tolerate ambiguity.
The Green Knight is a creepy, weird dark fantasy film which I enjoyed very much.