Movie Review: The Green Knight

Staff Writer: Blake Hopster

Sir Gawain and The Green Knight is an extremely influential 14th-century Arthurian tale that was written by an unknown author. It is a story about Sir Gawain, who is a knight of the round table, and his acceptance of a dangerous game on Christmas Day from the Green Knight. It has been adapted into novels by prestigious authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Simon Armitage, and many others. It was never displayed onto the big screen until 2021 in David Lowery’s breathtaking and thought-provoking The Green Night.

Photo Credit: A24 Studios 
A promotional poster used in marketing for the film. 

This will be a spoiler free look at David Lowery’s awe-inspiring adaptation of “The Green Knight.” The film opens upon a dreary, misty, and bleakly frigid late 14th century town, which immediately encapsulates the tone and direction of the film. When preparing yourself for this strangely mystifying piece of cinema, do not make the mistake of expecting a glorious action flick filled to the brim with battles and war-cries. Rather, be sure you are prepared for a dark, intriguing, and moralistic two-hour experience that will truly have you searching your brain for answers. 

Mrs. Williamson, a literature teacher at Woodstock High School who even teaches about the original Green Knight text, had this to say about the movie: “I was quite happy that [the movie] was changed a bit. The director did an excellent job, and many sequences were altered, especially the great cliffhanger ending. I loved it.”  

As Mrs. Williamson said, the film takes many creative liberties from the original text, which is honestly a refreshing rendition. The ending is also quite altered from the original text, and when I asked Woodstock High School senior Mitchell Dokos what he thought about it, he had this to say: “The ending added a lot to the story and was much better than the book. It forced you to think about it more and made my experience with the story better.” 

The film is still of course about Sir Gawain, nephew of King Arthur of Camelot. On Christmas Day, as all the knights gather around the round table, Gawain takes his place in a seat next to the king. However, their party is soon interrupted by the entrance of The Green Knight, a truly mystical and giant looking man who seems to be part tree. He offers a game to anyone who agrees to play it: an exchange of blows. Any manner of attack can be struck upon him, and in one year he will return the same exact blow to the one who struck him first.  

Gawain musters up the courage to challenge the knight, and Gawain simply beheads him in one swift blow. His head rolls onto the floor, and his body slumps over dead. At least that is what is assumed. The now headless Green Knight rises, walks over to his severed head, picks it up, and speaks from it to tell Gawain that in one year he must find him at the Green Chapel so the same blow can be returned. That is what this film is centered on: Gawain’s quest to uphold his end of the deal and face the consequences of the challenge like a true knight. 

Photo Credit: The Green Knight (2021) 
Sir Gawain triumphantly wields the Green Knight’s axe as he continues his quest for the Green Chapel. 

The morals of the film center around the five virtues of a true knight: Friendship, generosity, chastity, courtesy, and piety. Gawain manages to fail every single one of these virtues while on his quest to finish the challenge. His actions as a knight are questioned, his character is chastised, and his view of the world is flipped upside down, much like the camerawork of the film: beautiful cinematography to accompany an equally beautiful movie. 

Gawain is certainly tested upon his virtues and worthiness of knighthood, but does he eventually uphold his moral compass? That is for you, the reader, to find out as you embark on this brilliant journey of a motion picture. It is a genuinely great movie and a must-see if this article intrigued you. You may still be able to catch it in theaters, so grab a ticket now and enjoy a truly spectacular experience! 

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