“I fear I am not meant for greatness.”Gawain
Based on a 14th Century poem, David Lowery’s Arthurian fantasy horror The Green Knight is heavy on atmosphere and light on engagement, yet it has the power to linger. From the outset it is clear that this is not mainstream fantasy, its desaturated palette (shot on location in Ireland) and relentlessly oppressive tone make for a gruelling experience. It is not without beauty — in its use of light and shadow, and through its evocative (if disquieting) choral score. Whilst Lowery’s script is at times loose with the source material, it draws from the same central chivalric themes, particularly Gawain’s conflicting desires for greatness and honour — as King Arthur’s nephew, he feels entitled to the former but, by seeking it, he risks losing the latter. Dev Patel’s performance exhibits particular desperation in Gawain’s fear for his own survival, moreso than the temptations he faces during his journey. A dreamlike structure drifts from one encounter to another upon his quest, each a narratively disconnected vignette complete with chapter headings. Lowery’s focus is fixed entirely upon Gawain’s internal struggle, which unfortunately leaves Alicia Vikander underused despite playing a dual role. At first The Green Knight‘s positive critical reception struck me as attributable more to its unusual approach than whether it was successful in its aims, yet I must admit that my immediate discontent with the film mellowed into a residual curiosity as various aspects have continued to play on my mind.