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  • Wendy Shreve

THE GREEN KNIGHT: WHAT'S IN A GAME?

preternatural -- beyond which is normal or natural

(Oxford Languages)


Duty, honor, king, these noble traits appealed to 14th century poets. They regaled the attributes of chivalry, the ladies fair, the virtue of a quest. One anonymous bard chose to compose an alliterative poem, "Sir Gawain and The Green Knight" to illustrate chivalrous deeds. Adapting such a work, normally read in Old World English classes. for the screen takes guts.

Writer/Director David Lowery (A Ghost Story) took up the gauntlet. He has recreated Medieval England, the sparest reconstruction of "Camelot" and cast a non-traditional actor in the role of Sir Gawain (a splendid Dev Patel) for the movie, The Green Knight (2021).


In this version, the King (he's not named in this story), Sean Harris, tests his knights by asking if one would agree to fight the monstrous Green Knight in combat. A dissolute Sir Gawain, who has demonstrated he's unable to commit to any future, e.g., his lower-class girlfriend, Ethel (a spritely Alicia Vikander) or be a worthy nobleman of the court. However, on Christmas Day the King acknowledges his nephew, forcing the young knight to show his worth. Thus, Gawain volunteers. The result thrusts the man away from his home and on an unexpected quest.


Lowery emphasizes the preternatural at every turn--from Gawain's mother, a witch (a cunning Sarita Choudhury); the Green Knight's earthly dominion; magical, sometimes treacherous strangers that Gawain meets on his journey.


Filmed in Ireland, the U.K., the U.S. and Canada, the landscape, waft with fog has its own character. Barren fields, one littered with the dead after battles, rock precipices, caves and mystical forests have equal weight with the action. As if Lowery felt it necessary to fill in the breaks in the plot by using languorous, panoramic shots, halfway through this commendable, I thought: "An editor, an editor, my kingdom for an editor."


What's more the trendy use of natural light for many period pieces intermittently camouflages unfolding events in this picture. Yes, Lowery's stylish vision has much to admire: details such as wall tapestries, books depicting scenes from the poem giving hints to mysteries of the story; rich costumes and splashes of color lessening the ominous atmosphere, for example.


Viewers need not read the poem or a synopsis before seeing The Green Knight to follow most of the plot (this critic had). If you do or have read the work, then you may be disheartened by how Lowery concludes the film. Otherwise, as a neophyte, watching scenes set in Medieval England, love, betrayal a la Shakespeare's Macbeth; seeing magic through Lowery's lens may provide two hours and twenty-six minutes of theatrical filmmaking for your viewing pleasure.


The Green Knight works its magic to a degree. They'd all seen wonders, but nothing like this (Anonymous, "Sir Gawain and The Green Knight," translated from Middle English).


Rated R for language, violence (beheadings), stylish sex and otherworldly nudity.


Now showing in theaters everywhere. Locals: Entertainment Cinemas, South Dennis and Regal Cinema, Hyannis as of this publication date.



Earlier reviews not seen on this website (before May 20, 2021) are available on https://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/wendy-shreve/movies or my previous blog site, featuringfilm.com


Care to share? Post or e-mail your comments to featuringfilmreviewer@gmail.com


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