‘The Green Knight’ takes viewers on a mystifying and fantastical journey

Written By Jake Dabkowski, Editor-Elect

In the nine years since its founding in 2012, A24 Films has gone from an unheard-of indie study to one of the most revered studios in filmmaking. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, their latest film “The Green Knight” is the first film to receive a proper widespread theatrical release since 2019’s Adam Sandler-led masterpiece “Uncut Gems.” To put it plainly: I was very excited to see “The Green Knight.”

The term “A24 movie” has even become somewhat of an in-joke within film fans, usually referring to how their films are oftentimes pretentious, and overly experimental, oftentimes to the detriment of the film. Going into this, especially having seen some of the promotional materials, I was worried that this film would be a mess of pretentious editing and incoherent story points. That was not the case.

The film is a mystifying and spellbinding adaptation of the classic Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Dev Patel stars as Gawain, a role that he absolutely crushes, but the actor who most surprised me was Ralph Ineson as the titular Green Knight. Despite not having much screen time, Ineson delivers an unforgettable performance as an antagonistic force who, at the end of the day, is not evil, but simply playing his part within the story.

Lord of the Rings creator and Arthurian scholar J.R.R. Tolkein referred to the character of the Green Knight as “the most difficult character to interpret… within the Arthurian canon.” That difficulty within interpretations, by proxy, applies to the overall story, and director David Lowery very clearly acknowledges this. Lowery’s vision of this mysterious and mythical world leads to him doing a fantastic job of adapting the open-ended nature of the original legend.

Throughout the film, almost everything is left directly unexplained and forces you to draw your own conclusions. I saw this film with a close friend and had an absolutely enthralling conversation afterward, and I must say that this is one of the first films I’ve seen in theaters in a while that really got me excited to discuss the film.

Ultimately the film’s biggest strength is its experimental nature. Its use of crossfades, wide shots and score makes the movie feel almost like living inside of a dream. I was reminded of Twin Peaks, specifically how Angelo Badalamenti’s iconic score combined with David Lynch’s unique directing style created a distinct dreamlike feel. What Lynch did for supernatural murder mysteries, Lowery does here for Arthurian legends.

This film is a borderline masterpiece but is at the same time very much an “A24 movie.” An overreliance on crossfades within the editing and overall disconnected narrative sometimes left me feeling somewhat confused. This is also very much a film where you have to go on Wikipedia afterward, especially if you aren’t familiar with the source material.

Despite these minor issues, “The Green Knight” is still one of the best films that I’ve seen in years. It is encouraging to see a film with this level of experimentation receive the reception that it has received amongst a sea of formulaic blockbusters and ongoing franchises.