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Green Knight, The
The folly of man lies in its egotistical illusion that it can cheat death and nature through self-appointed aggrandizement. No matter how great a king becomes, he will eventually share the soil with a lowly pauper, the greenery of mother earth absorbing their bodies in equal measure. Writer-director David Lowery's (Pete's Dragon, A Ghost Story) haunting and hypnotizing masterwork, half Arthurian mythology and half contemplative medieval horror, sends its brave knight Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) through a journey that begins with faux chivalry and meticulously breaks him down to the vulnerable core of any human being who eventually comes face-to-face with the inevitability of nature and the finality of their time in it.
Lowery based his film on an actual Arthurian legend, a morality tale of heroism that sees our knight setting on a journey to meet the titular character, who's basically a human-sized ent from Lord of the Rings with even less of a sense of humor. The Green Knight interrupts King Arthur's (Sean Harris) Christmas feast with a challenge: whoever attacks him now will have to make the perilous journey to visit him in a year's time, to face his destiny and be struck down by him. Sir Gawain bravely protects his king and saves the day, but will have to face the music in a year's time.
The 14th Century poem from which the film is based has various themes and symbolism that are still in dispute to this day, and it ends on a note that comes across as one of the foremost pranks of the time period (The original does have a rather silly ending in my humble opinion). Lowery takes the outlines of the legend and scribes a tale of dread and the inevitability of death. He depicts the world of man as sickly and cruel. There are many settings where great tragedies and battles have once taken place, and the greenery of nature has risen to recycle our mess.
It would be a disservice to give away any of the surprises and bizarre yet profound occurrences in Sir Gawain's adventure. Suffice to say that Lowery's film is singular in the way it distills the time period to its bleakest core and represents a vision that we imagine would have been executed if film technology existed in the 14th Century and the poem was visualized as such at the time. It has very little interest in applying its narrative and themes to a contemporary audience, and as much as this might frustrate some, those with a penchant for truly unique and visionary filmmaking should find a lot to bite into here.
Woo boy, if this 2160p transfer isn't demo-worthy, I don't know what is. The 4K presentation exceptionally captures the film's gorgeous cinematography with absolutely clarify and precision. It's a perfect representation for such a perfectly shot film. The contrast between the sickly grays of the human world and the vibrant greens of nature is essential in capturing the themes that Lowery is going for, and this contrast is strikingly presented here.
The Green Knight thrives on its quiet and haunting moments, so a strong dynamic range in the sound presentation is key in enjoying the film without always having to keep a finger on your volume button. The Green Knight's Dolby Atmos track passes that test with flying colors as it showcases the great balance between the quiet parts and the handful of chilling moments that pop up.
Boldest of Blood and Wildest of Heart: This half-hour making-of featurette manages to condense a lot of the film's production into such a small package.
Practitioners of Magic: This featurette on the film's visual effects showcases how the slight but necessary addition of CGI to the practical elements accentuated the film's look.
Illuminating Technique: You don't see this very often. This is an interview with the credits designer Teddy Blanks who mainly talks about the design of the font he chose for the titles.
We also get a Trailer.
At a time when the straightforward narratives of streaming content are king, The Green Knight reminds us of the still alluring power of the cinematic experience. This was meant for the big screen, so find the biggest one possible to thoroughly transform yourself through Lowery's singular achievement.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com