Film Review: Green Knight (2021)

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The Green Knight tells the story of Sir Gawain, who is the nephew of King Arthur in medieval England. This movie is purely a fantasy film adapted from the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by the renowned director David Lowery.

Green Knight movie poster. (IMDB/Website)

On the eve of Christmas, King Arthur’s courtyard witnesses the entrance of a knight whose body resembles that of a tree. Upon his entry, he challenges the king’s knights to cut his head but on one condition; he will do the same to the one who takes up this challenge in one year. Sir Gawain, who does not have any legendary tales to add his name yet, steps up and cuts the head of the Green Knight; upon seeing this, everyone in the court seems happy. Suddenly, the knight’s body picks up the head from the floor and leaves his green axe behinds for Gawain and warns him that he has one year to summon the courage and bring this axe back to him with which he will cut his head. The following plot of the movie describes the quest of Gawain, the challenges he embraces to finally meet the Green Knight within one year.

Besides touching on the chivalric romance theme directly from the gothic poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the movie talks in-depth about eco-criticism. For example, while Sir Gawain leaves the palace, the camera focuses on an area where forests are being cleared with the axes built from wood, implicitly resembling the scene where Gawain cuts Green Knight’s head off and is off to face the consequence of it.

In another scene, Gawain asks the host of the fort where he rests during his quest “why do you think the Green Knight is green?” For that, she replies with “…green is what remains after lust leaves.” If considered carefully, the warning of the Green Knight to Gawain can be seen as a warning to humans struck with consumerism in general.

The movie also questions the power that humans have over nature. In the climax scene, Green Knight asks Gawain, “…did you not have one year for preparing yourself against my axe?” That is a question that all of humanity awaits from nature as we are still not sure how to deal with the havoc we have wreaked on the earth.

The cinematography of this movie is a beautiful experience. The frames of the movie often appear like paintings in an ancient textbook. Other than portraying medieval gothic England, the film takes us through the wild forest covers, fog-covered fields, and shows us magical creatures. The colours chosen to enrich the frames felt deliberately nature-oriented and it resonated with the movie’s underlying theme, especially the scene where we see Gawain’s portrait drawn by the host flooded with green; this almost resembled him getting drowned in a pool of thick green blood.

Another exciting thing in this movie is the use of ominous music that is well-employed and aligned perfectly with the tensed building of several scenes which created an ultimately thrilling cinematic experience for the viewers.

Overall, Green Knight is a journey of beautiful cinematic frames and intense music that fantasy film lovers will find pretty entertaining.