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The Green Knight

The Green Knight

Light snow, misty fog, and falling ash blend in the opening scenes of David Lowery's magnificent "The Green Knight," setting a surreal tone for what's to come. You can feel the chill and smell the air. Immediately, you feel outside yourself, far from daily concerns, set for an experience that's unlike anything else in nearby theaters. That feeling won't subside for over two hours.  

Lowery has adapted the 14th century chivalric romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight into one of the most memorable films of the year, a fascinating swirl of masculinity, temptation, heroism, and religion. Arthurian experts may quibble with some of Lowery's decisions and it is certainly a film that challenges traditional expectations of stories about heroic knights for modern audiences, but fans will be drawn to this mesmerizing journey guided by Lowery's incredibly poetic eye, career-best work from Dev Patel, and an artistic sensibility that transports audiences to another world. It's a film that embeds the concept of storytelling and performance into its narrative—whether it's a King asking for a heroic tale or children watching a puppet show—while also weaving its own enchanting spell on audiences. More than any movie in a long time, I would have immediately watched it again, but it's also a film that really strengthens in memory, swirling around your brain like the falling flakes of the opening scenes.

Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) is the nephew of King Arthur (Sean Harris) and Queen Guinevere (Kate Dickie), and the son of Morgan Le Fay (Sarita Choudhury), accused by some in the village of witchcraft. After a brief opening scene with his lover (Alicia Vikander) and mother, Gawain is off to a lavish Christmas banquet with the King and Queen, at which he is surprised to be asked to sit by their side. Arthur speaks to him of taking young Gawain for granted, and immediately Patel conveys depth with his striking eyes, relaying both the emotional pride that comes with finally feeling seen. (He does so much throughout the film in terms of physical performance, using his eyes and body to find emotion without dialogue.) Long, deliberately slow exchanges between Gawain and Arthur set the tone: This is not an action film. Arthur asks to hear a tale.

One unfolds in front of their eyes. The doors to the hall burst open and the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) enters. Half-man, half-tree, he casts an imposing figure, and he wants to play "The Christmas Game." He offers a deal. He challenges any of Arthur's knights to strike him. If they can, the knight will get his imposing weapon in exchange. But there's a cost. A year hence, the knight must come to the Green Chapel, where the Green Knight will return the exact strike given him a year earlier. Gawain steps forward, and despite being reminded that this is a game by Arthur, beheads the Green Knight. The mythical creature picks up his head, which doesn't seem too concerned about its detachment, and laughs as it rides off. Gawain is about to have a long year.

— Brian Tallerico, rogerebert.com

The Green Knight

Tue April 4, 7:30 PM, Muenzinger Auditorium

Canada, Ireland, United Kingdom, United States of America; 2021; in English; 130 min • official site

Screenplay: David Lowery, Director: David Lowery, Cast: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris

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