Image: Ralph Ineson as The Green Knight [Source: Google Images]
A tale of Arthurian legend. The Knight Sir Gawain, brash and eager for renown, accepts the challenge of a mysterious Green Knight. To land a strike upon him but come a year, the Green Knight deals the same strike back to Gawain.
The thing most striking about The Green Knight is its production value. For a story mostly historical and fantasy, it feels not only completely grounded but the magic and larger than life elements do not seem out of place at all. When the large hulking figure of the Green Knight himself wanders into the Arthurian court on Christmas Day. It doesn’t seem out of place in the slightest, for the characters as well as the audience. This is also a testament that the production value trickles down to. The costumes are pitch perfect, it may not be hyper realistic, as everyone seems impeccably well dressed but every costume strikes at the screen full of colour and dower historical of the time nature. Especially of course of The Green Knight himself, the costume design and the make up effects are wonderful and borders along horror film vividness, a testament also to the ever brilliant, Ralph Ineson. Who commands every scene he is in as the Green Knight, not due to knight’s large stature and horrific visage but the depth of unease in Ineson’s performance. There’s something soft, yet brutal, determined yet flexible and charismatic about Ineson’s performance and the knights presence.
Wonderfully it is clear to see why. Lowery wastes no time and compensates for no audience demographic when approaching this story. He tells it with artistic poetry that as far as I’m aware is his usual. Ghost Story told a tale of grief with poignant imagery. Lowery uses imagery for the large part to tell a tale of life and death and perhaps what makes it all worth living. The imagery and scenes of Patel’s Gawain through the outlandish cast of characters he meets along the way as well as the bizarre imagery he and the audience are faced with. It’s clear that Lowery is trying to be true to the source material by invoking a sense of message and meaning to the journey of Sir Gawain. While also challenging the audience to pick apart each scene and character and colour in the mise en scene. This is no simply story of a knight going to meet his maker.
Of course it has to mentioned that Patel is truly charismatic and undeniably in his role as Sir Gawain. I hear someone say that Patel is truly remarkable in his ability to play characters who are both weak and determined, which Patel can play truly magnificently at the same time. He fits the character perfectly and helps the audience navigate a world in which they themselves may find peculiarly irreverent. The cinematography does a wonderful job of capturing that tone of familiar and surreal, historical but poetic. It uses larger wide shots, combined with deeply personal close ups to invoke our sense of scale and emotional while the lighting is dim yet vivid, it makes for startling juxtaposition.
There is another moment of conflict such as this and perhaps in the most vital of scenes. Following the a large completive montage with a sweeping score to invoke emotional hardship as we follow a series of images across Gawain’s life. We are met with the final scene. It’s a story and film left entirely ambiguous why the time the credits roll, at first I felt rather deflated. I couldn’t in just how I felt immediately following or in some thought about meaning, determine how I felt about the narrative while the credits rolled. I say the ending is ambiguous but to me it seemed to lean in a certain direction, one of nihilistic and empty gesture. I could not piece together a way in which the narrative had any meaning or how any of the journey had shaped this character.
Perhaps the point of the film was that ultimately Gawain was not your folk hero and he learned no lessons, which if it is the case I believable unfortunately the film falls flat on its face at its finale. Of course you could argue that the ending leans a different direction, the the film takes on the stance the same as the story. One of troubled yet courageous young man who while makes mistakes does ultimately learn a crucial lesson along the way. Of course I respect Lowerys attempt to not create a film so simple and straight forward and perhaps he believes it would be quite juvenile in the foreground of the poetic story telling going on in his visuals. But without a scene to confirm the end, the ambiguity leaves too much up in the air, with nothing to ground the narrative in any direction which leaves interpretation open to a flat, nihilistic and empty narrative finale.