The Green Knight Has Religious Undertones

Dev Patel in The Green Knight. Courtesy of A24,

Writer-director David Lowery puts his touch on The Green Knight in a new retelling of the Arthurian legend, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) is King Arthur’s (Sean Harris) nephew and he takes it upon himself to take down the gigantic creature (Ralph Ineson). One year later, he must journey to a Green Chapel so they can do battle again. What’s so fascinating is that in the original legend, he was already a knight when this took place. But in film, he wasn’t even a member of the legendary Round Table! This is just the first of many changes between the original poem and this on-screen retelling.

Lowery makes sure the major elements from the story are in the film. But again, he adds his own touch because otherwise, we’d be going from point A to point B in much less time. Let’s just say that there’s a lot of weirdness while Gawain meets figures along this journey from Camelot to the chapel. Some nice, some not, and some dead. A scheming scavenger (Barry Keoghan) is among the first one he meets. Later on, when looking for rest, he meets St. Winifred (Erin Kellyman). If you’re not sure why she looks familiar, look no further than Solo: A Star Wars Story and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.

Lord Bertilak’s (Joel Edgerton) castle offers him rest and a love affair with his wife (Alicia Vikander in dual roles as Lady and Essel) for a few days. Lowery changes things. Supposedly Morgan le Fay is the mysterious blind woman (Helena Browne) as well as Gawain’s mother (Sarita Choudhury) instead of his aunt. Both are played by different actresses but maybe le Fay is the one pulling the strings. The castle is maybe a day or two’s journey away from the destination. I’m not sure what to make of the film’s final act because I personally don’t know what’s real and what isn’t. Is it one of those what could have been things? Or is it a case of this is everything that happened since the battle but he dies once he takes off the enchantment? This part is somewhat confusing.

Lowery takes the original text, which had been translated into English by J.R.R. Tolkien. And yet, there’s this contemporary feeling about this mystery. We’re so used to watching films bout Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Merlin. However, the adaptations of anything on Sir Gawain number few and far between. This is now the third feature film but it’s been a few decades since the last retelling of the story. It’s kind of funny though because every time there’s a King Arthur film, I do the deep dive on Wikipedia and such. What’s so fascinating is that I had never heard of the Green Knight tale but maybe I scrolled down a page too quickly. But I digress.

One thing that I did take away from the film is that there is the involvement of witchcraft. But why? We never really understand why they end up doing what they do? Why is it that they want to attack King Arthur and the Round Table? There’s not much of a backstory here! In case you didn’t know, the original poem takes root in a battle between Christianity and Paganism. Given that the film takes place during Xmas, I guess it makes sense. But then one starts to wonder why this film isn’t being released in December. If you’re just visiting Solzy at the Movies for the first time, it’s not a holiday that I celebrate or observe. This also may explain why this film struggled to keep my interest for all of it’s two hours and change run time. Anyway, the Christian undertones may be a turn-off for some.

The production makes glorious use of the Irish scenery. It may be rooted in Welsh but alas, Ireland will just have to on screen. Everywhere we see isn’t far from Dublin if you’re one of those people that likes to visit film locations. Cahir Castle doubles for Camelot. The film is full of greys and greens while taking as much advantage of natural light as possible. Cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo certainly makes a strong case here for Oscar contention.

It feels like only yesterday when Dev Patel was breaking onto the scene. Given the Arthurian films of days past, I thought this would be an action film. The fact that it is light on action is very disappointing. In terms of action, The Wedding Guest is probably Patel’s strongest credential for making a case to play James Bond. The Green Knight is not a bad film but at times, it feels like you’re watching A Ghost Story but in a completely different century.

The Green Knight has a lot of religious undertones but the film remains Loweryian in nature.

CAST: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Barry Keoghan, and Ralph Ineson

A24 releases The Green Knight in theaters on July 30, 2021.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.