Review: The Green Knight (15)

Rachel Carron gives the green light to go and see The Green Knight in her review for the screen adaption of a medieval classic.

Rachel Carron
13th October 2021
The Green Knight, as established in the title screen, is a ‘filmed adaptation’ of the 14th century chivalric tale ‘Sir Gawain and The Green Knight’ authored by an anonymous contemporary of Chaucer.

"This film makes you feel as though you are sitting in a dimly lit medieval tavern listening to a bard weave a tale"

The absence of ‘Sir Gawain’ in the film’s title is our first hint at how our modern expectations of a heroic tale are about to be subverted and challenged. Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) is the reckless nephew of King Arthur (Sean Harris) who takes up the challenge of a mysterious Christmas Game proposed by the magical, anthropomorphised Green Knight (Ralph Ineson). The film follows Gawain's fantastical journey to seek out the Green Knight by the following Christmas Day. It is a brilliant tale of the pursuit of true honour and a fascinating exploration of medieval ideas of masculinity, one that allows the audience to contend with our modern ideas of gender and social responsibility.

Dev Patel stars as Sir Gawain in the film. Credit: Youtube

From the ingenious storytelling to the breath-taking cinematography, it’s safe to say the film features some very impressive world building. The poetic structure of the original tale being embedded in the dialogue of this film makes you feel as though you are sitting in a dimly lit medieval tavern listening to a bard weave a tale. This enchanting atmosphere can be attributed to the other-worldly score composed by A24 regular Daniel Hart (Ghost Story). The occasional moments of odd dark humour echo Chaucer, especially in the sequence of Gerwain’s stay in ‘Lord’s’ castle, as well as adding to the overwhelmingly peculiar, yet entrancing feel of this film.

The anthropomorphised Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) Credit: Youtube

Furthermore, the fascinating incorporation of witchcraft and magic, beautifully portrayed in the film itself, puts us, the audience, in the shoes of Gawain; constantly questioning what the truth is, what is real, what is magical and what is imagined by our protagonist. We are forced to be suspicious and discriminating as the journey spirals into disorientation brought to an absolute and brutal climax at the end of the film.

The Green Knight is a must see for Medieval history enthusiasts, fans of A24 and anyone who likes good,  unconventional films. It extends beyond just pretty cinematography and great performances in that it subtly touches on the climate crisis and increasingly worrying attitudes towards our natural world – ones that, as the film suggests, haven’t progressed much since the 1300s. Historical sources suggest that deforestation was fairly common practice in the Middle Ages. A popular belief was that nature was a garden gifted to humanity from God for them to cultivate, or tame - sound familiar? Furthermore, forests were often viewed with malice which the film certainly holds as true as we see Gawain traverse a dark and expansive forest for a good portion of the run time. 

"The audience is constantly questioning what is real, what is magical and what is imagined by our protagonist"

Without getting too much into possible spoilers, this film is a fascinating and delightfully clever consideration of the struggle of conservation and humanity’s need to dominate our natural world into submission for our own greed and sense of superiority. Go and see The Green Knight in a cinema near you!

4/5 Stars

The Green Knight is in cinemas and available to stream with Amazon Prime.

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