THE GREEN KNIGHT is a Beautiful and Beguiling Tale [4K-Review]

A sumptuous and heady take on an Arthurian legend

We’re all familiar with the general legend of King Arthur. The sword in the stone, the lady of the lake, the Knights of the round table. But there are other tales amid this rich slice of British medieval lore that are less well known. The Green Knight is one example. Primarily stemming from a 14th Century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, David Lowery (A Ghost Story, Pete’s Dragon) shapes these tales into an enthralling feature.

Young Gawain (Dev Patel), lacking stories of his own and seeking to define himself and his legacy, rises to a challenge laid down at a Christmas feast, hosted by his uncle, King Arthur (Sean Harris). Events prompted by the mystical machinations of his mother (Sarita Choudhury). As the knights of the round tale feast together, the mythical Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) interrupts them to lay down a game to anyone present. A chance to win his axe and favor to anyone willing to land a blow upon him, with the understanding that it will be returned in kind in one years time. Gawain, stepping forth to take his chance at, swings Excalibur and decapitates the knight. He promptly stands, picks up his head, and tells Gawain to visit him at the Green Chapel at the appointed date. After a year, Gawain sets out on a journey, enduring a series of trials on his way to his fated meeting with the Green Knight.

In literature Gawain is often depicted as one of the core members of Arthur’s court, a brave warrior and chivalrous knight. This iteration is not yet that, instead a more free-spirited youth, more preoccupied with drinking and laying with his paramour Esel (Alicia Vikander). Surrounded by greatness, men who have proven themselves in trials of their own. Gawain is in the shadow of this, more so given his kinship to the King and his legacy too. Gawain’s journey is essentially a test of a man’s mettle. His yearning to craft a legacy befitting his surrounds, and how that is at odds with, or informs his own moral compass. Testing encounters with knaves, the horrors of battle, a supernatural mystery, mythical beasts, and the seductive allure of a couple residing in a castle on the doorstep to Gawain’s ultimate destination, the Green Chapel. The film is mired in myth, but its themes remains resonant. Not just in terms of Gawain’s experiences and reflective journey, but the symbolic collision of man vs nature. The Green Knight, a remarkable creation with bark instead of skin, a creaking moss-hewn creation, vegetation sprouting in his wake, capped off with the deeply distinct tones of Ralph Ineson. Green for nature and decay, a primal and inevitable force to push back against man’s encroachment and bravado. Balance in trading a blow for a blow.

At the core of everything is Dev Patel. A captivating performance, showing Gawain running the gamut of emotions and experiences, ever flirting with temptation, ever grasping at redemption. Patel’s work is brimming with layers, yet that innate decency still shines through. The supporting cast offer perfect foils, from the maturity and nurturing presence exuded by Sean Harris (Arthur), Kate Dickie (Guinevere), and Sarita Choudhury (Gawain’s mother)to the transfixing (and often off-kilter work) of Joel Edgerton and Barry Keoghan. Vikander in particular, with a duality to her performance, serves a reminder of her talents and underscores a female counterpoint to the more masculine themes that drive the plot. It’s another aspect of the film that reinforces writer/director Lowery’s grasp of his craft, as well as the source material. An patiently built journey towards enlightenment that takes deep root in your mind. Alongside cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo, the film is evocatively shot, a rustic authenticity with a mystic, surreal tilt that becomes increasingly prevalent as the film progresses. Daniel Hart’s score complements Lowery’s approach. Weaving instruments old and new together to befit the piece, unsettling and enthralling in equal measure. It all builds into a deeply textured, and mesmerizing piece of filmmaking.

The Package

Let’s establish one thing first, The Green Knight is one of the most beautiful films you’ll see this year, and this 4K disc certainly does it justice. Verdant and textured scenes look brilliantly crisp. The depth of detail and color palette is also very well represented. Blacks are deep and solid, too. The film might be an acquired taste to some, but this 4K presentation is a great way to show off the quality of a Ultra HD setup.

  • Boldest of Blood & Wildest of Heart: Making The Green Knight: Just over 35 min, a solid behind the scenes that delves into the production with on set info and a number of interviews
  • Practitioners of Magic: Visual Effects: A look at some of the subtle, and not so subtle use of CGI in the film
  • Illuminating Technique: Title Design: If you watch the film, you’ll see a rather playful and creative deployment of titles/fonts, so this interview with title designer Teddy Blanks is great to see here
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Package also includes Blu-ray and digital editions of the film

The Bottom Line

The Green Knight is a a fresh take on a tale, rooted in antiquity, that continues to resonate today. Sumptuously presented, and anchored by a magnetic performance from Dev Patel, Lowery’s work is a deeply considered and beguiling experience.

The Green Knight is available on Ultra HD 4K, and Blu-ray now

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