David Lowery’s The Green Knight
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Green from womb to tomb
Crossing the parallel street of “Greene” to the downtown core of Montreal and through the hallowed halls of the former house of glory known as the forum, I make my way into the theatre and take my seat to view a film about a journey much greater and symbolic.
David Lowry’s “The Green Knight”, a tale where magic, witchcraft, folklore, life and death intermingle and test one another through a protagonist known as Sir Gawain (Dev Patel).
The film embodies the Arthurian era poem of the same name and illustrates the historical elements of a shifting society of Celtic and northern folklore to early Christendom.
The story begins with our hero as a self-doubting and self-deprecating young man who has yet to test his honour and bravery in a quest for the highest title of knighthood. On Christmas Day a green knight wanders through the hallowed doors of the Arthurian castle and places a challenge to be met at the round table. He states that he will allow one man to strike their weapon against him without défense, but he who does must then seek him out in the green chapel as the “blow must be returned” by the knight approximately one year later.
To show his honour and devotion to his family and his king, sir Gawain decapitates this knight and enters into a contract to venture forth and seek the green knight one year later.
The film is woven with folklore and magic that carefully contrasts the religious representations and symbols of the time.
The hero’s shell of naivety is cracked open allowing his greenness to seep out and green moss of life and death to enter.
Over the course of his journey two distinct female characters played by Alicia Vikander appear one of which is a lady who seduces our hero through the protection of a magical green belt which, when worn above the waste would not allow harm to him. The same belt was gifted to him by his mother who wanted him protected through his journey. Unbeknownst to Sir Gawain, this belt and his wearing of it is a test. Will our hero take the easy way out through a magical belt, blessed to never allow harm to him, while destruction, life, death and cruelty continue on at his hand? A commanding monologue delivered by the lady (Vikander) analyzes the colour green and all it’s important and conflicting meanings. Why green? Because it encompasses all that our hero is striving for and is inflicted by. Sir Gawain is a flawed, green, untested man whose legacy is a family of honourable men. He is at the beginning of his life as a man who wishes to be truly tested by nature’s unforgiving elements. He faces the true journey which is his ability to venture into the unknown, surviving without luxury or comfort. His biggest enemy and loyal friend is the green of nature. His test is the green moss that may cover his dead body as the earth consumed him. Green from womb to tomb.
A picture is worth a thousand words and this one demonstrated the importance of driving a point home with intricate details in each frame. The green knight is an organic fantasy film that allows its viewers to follow but never reveal where they will go next. A tale of twists and turn, it is a thrill and a true epic in its form!