Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Sir Gawain’

Dev Patel

“THE GREEN KNIGHT” My rating: B 

130 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“The Green Knight” is  writer/director David Lowery’s big-screen adaptation of the 500-year-old epic poem (we don’t know the author) “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.”

As such you might expect a big dose of sword and sorcery and some major-league action/adventure violence.

Think again.  Lowery’s narrative approach has more in common with Robert Bresson’s austere “Lancelot du Lac” than with, say, the atavistic carnage of “Braveheart.”

Here he is attempting cinematically to approximate the experience of reading a long poem from a distant past. In doing so he embraces storytelling that eschews rational explanations and psychological realism. 

And yet “The Green Knight” is not a relic preserved in amber. The film is a visual tour de force thanks to the splendid cinematography of Andrew Droz Palermo (he shot Lowery’s “A Ghost Story,” as well as the KC-area lensed documentary “Rich Hill”), the costumes by Malgosia Turnsganza and the production design of Jade Healy.

Periodically Lowery inserts distinctively modern perspectives into this ancient tale. An example: We first meet knight-in-training Gawain (Dev Patel in a true star-making performance) awakening in a whorehouse on Christmas morning.  Actually, he gets a bucket of water in the face, courtesy of his playful  plebian lover (Alicia Vikander).

As he wanders through the bustling bordello in search of his boots, Gawain is teased by other guests and harlots, who kid him about spending more time partying than on his knightly training. The dialogue and camerawork bring a sense of naturalism and everyday immediacy.

Dev Patel

The movie’s distinctively modern moments coexist with a sort of formal pageantry. The result is a film that is overwhelmingly an intellectual/visual experience rather than an emotional one.

“The Green Knight” is probably going to divide audiences into lovers (it’s an overwhelmingly poetic/mystical experience) and haters (too long, too slow, not enough action).

A Yuletide celebration in the court of Gawain’s uncle King Arthur (Sean Harris) and his queen (Kate Dickie) is interrupted by the arrival of the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson), a towering figure who appears to be half tree (I was reminded of Groot from the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise).  This ominous visitor proposes a contest.  He will receive a blow from any of Arthur’s knights; in a year’s time that knight must seek out the Green Knight and stand to receive the same blow.

Young Gawain, apparently smitten with visions of glory, accepts the challenge and with Arthur’s sword strikes off the visitor’s head.  The Green Knight is nonplussed…he picks up his severed noggin and rides off with a laugh and a reminder that they will meet again next Christmas.

The bulk of the film unfolds on Gawain’s trek north to meet his fate. Along the way he is befriended by a fox (Is it a real animal? A CG effect? Whatever, it’s really convincing).  He is waylaid by a talky peasant (Barry Keoghan) who pilfers the remains of slain soldiers.

He spends a chaste night with a young woman named Winnifred (Erin Kellyman), and shares several days with a Lord (Joel Edgarton) and his cooly seductive wife (Vikander again).

At one point on his wanderings he encounters a migration of fog-enshrouded giants, huge naked hairless figures who might have stepped out of one of the recent “Alien” movies.

“The Green Knight” is jammed with symbolism that will probably be lost on anyone not schooled in medievalism.  Some of the episodes seem arbitrary and pointless.

Much as he did with “A Ghost Story,” Lowery explores alternate realities.  In one instance the camera spins to show Gawain hogtied on the ground, then as a rotting skeleton, and then alive again as he struggles to free himself.

And the last 10 minutes is a sort of “Last Temptation of Christ” fantasy in which Gawain’s mind explores the life he might have had (a life in which he is a mighty king).

At its core this is a tale about a young man who acts impulsively and then must live with the consequences; will Gawain have the inner resolve to submit to the Green Knight’s blade? Or will he bring shame on himself and Arthur’s court?

What’s remarkable about Patel’s performance is that he talks about none of this, but the emotions bubbling beneath the surface are perfectly clear. Sometimes words aren’t necessary.

| Robert W. Butler

Read Full Post »