The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)

Discussions of specific films and franchises.
Message
Author
User avatar
CSM126
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 8:22 am
Location: The Room
Contact:

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2020)

#26 Post by CSM126 » Fri May 14, 2021 4:49 pm

I’ll admit to intensely disliking Ain’t Them Bodies Saints specifically because it was a shitty Malick knockoff, but Lowery’s work since then has A) dramatically improved and B) no longer shows any Malick aping/influence that I can detect. Unless you wanna really stretch and say The Old Man and the Gun is a Badlands riff just because it’s a crime flick costarring Sissy Spacek.

connor
Joined: Thu Jul 29, 2010 2:03 pm

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2020)

#27 Post by connor » Fri May 14, 2021 4:52 pm

CSM126 wrote:
Fri May 14, 2021 4:49 pm
I’ll admit to intensely disliking Ain’t Them Bodies Saints specifically because it was a shitty Malick knockoff, but Lowery’s work since then has A) dramatically improved and B) no longer shows any Malick aping/influence that I can detect. Unless you wanna really stretch and say The Old Man and the Gun is a Badlands riff just because it’s a crime flick costarring Sissy Spacek.
I was really liking The Old Man and the Gun but the script was really half-baked. It seemed to be missing a third act. It just suddenly ended.

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2020)

#28 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri May 14, 2021 6:03 pm

I only really like A Ghost Story but I really like it. It's on an existential wavelength that is esoteric enough to inhibit blind recs though, as I've found even likeminded peers who are usually down with these kinds of philosophical tone poems to be split on it.

User avatar
Boosmahn
Joined: Mon Sep 04, 2017 10:08 pm

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2020)

#29 Post by Boosmahn » Fri May 14, 2021 6:21 pm

I liked The Old Man and the Gun and the tone it was going for, but it probably would've been more impactful if it hadn't been the first Robert Redford movie I had seen. I'll likely watch A Ghost Story within the next month.

But as for The Green Knight, I predict it will either be great or a massive disappointment. I'm leaning towards the former!

User avatar
cdnchris
Site Admin
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 2:45 pm
Location: Washington
Contact:

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2020)

#30 Post by cdnchris » Fri May 14, 2021 7:31 pm

I'm kinda disappointed that nobody has mentioned Pete's Dragon yet...

User avatar
CSM126
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 8:22 am
Location: The Room
Contact:

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2020)

#31 Post by CSM126 » Fri May 14, 2021 7:52 pm

cdnchris wrote:
Fri May 14, 2021 7:31 pm
I'm kinda disappointed that nobody has mentioned Pete's Dragon yet...
For what it’s worth, I love Pete’s Dragon and think it’s Lowery’s best work to date. Lovely work, and perhaps my favorite Bryce Dallas Howard performance.

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)

#32 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Jul 29, 2021 8:25 pm


User avatar
willoneill
Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2009 10:10 am
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)

#33 Post by willoneill » Fri Jul 30, 2021 10:04 am

Saw the Green Knight last night, and it's my favorite film of the year so far. What I've liked most about Lowery's last few films is that they're all fables of different sorts, engrossing me in these tales. The Green Knight may be the best, though I am partial to Pete's Dragon (that may partially be due to nostalgia bias). The film is very well put together from a technical sense, and is gorgeous to look at at and hear. Dev Patel carries the film well, and I've become quite a fan of his grown-up work. It does deviate from the source material a bit, but not in a way that bothered me, and in fact I found it enhanced the story and themes a bit.

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)

#34 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Jul 31, 2021 3:03 am

I feel like I've been tricked in the best possible way. For those familiar with Lowery, his latest is expectedly much different than its action-heavy marketable trailer, and while I was fully prepared for this to be a bombastic extrapolation of the quiet existential meditations of A Ghost Story into the quest-fantasy realm, what I wasn't prepared for is how the film subverts its own supposed ethos to rest in the enigmatic stew of 'being' without fulfilling the tacitly-postured illusory catharsis.

Lowery starts his narrative off with some mildly poetic spins on the mythic folklore tale, but keeps his technique relatively grounded while Patel is reflexively inert in his bubble of ideological structure and sheepish routine that reinforces passive agency. The cuts are quick and fluid, shot lengths short, and the shots themselves not too risky, but we stay engaged through the first act due to some distressing material interspersed within the formula, ungrounding us just enough to sense what's coming. However, as soon as Patel leaves home on his quest, we can discern that this epic fantasy will be twisted into an art film- and boy is it ever. The long takes begin quite literally as Patel leaves home, a tracking shot following him on his horse for what feels like forever, and we get another one (perhaps the most impressive take in the movie) as Barry Keoghan is introduced in a riveting setpiece. Keoghan brings a disturbing unpredictability to his role, and although it's unfortunately a brief one, his performance is perfect at initiating the first core theme of this film: Life is comprised of variables that intrude on our safety and aggressively force participation in dysphoric activity.

The film's score oscillates between inspiring and unnerving, but almost always harbors an undercurrent of poisonous agitation as it reflects the layered tones of Patel's journey. Like A Ghost Story, Lowery imbues his milieu with some transcendental brooding, but his primary temperament is existential horror, carefully struck by refusing to offer the easy answers we expect to be settled by objectives in quests. Patel encounters several checkpoints in his mission, each one more surreal and than the last, and the unsettling revelation we are coerced to begin processing is that this film is actually spending the bulk of its narrative functioning as an anti-morality tale. Patel does not learn lessons or mature from his experiences; quite the opposite, as they evoke his own defective characteristics and remain muddled in what wisdom to take from them. The first checkpoint seems to indicate that Patel is too trusting and ignorant, but the next pitstops are less clear around where Patel should place his trust, and Lowery admirably keeps any 'answers' nebulous. Trust is neither good nor bad, because it's not a concept to be deciphered but a feeling to be felt and worked through. In this way, Lowery's terrifying presentation of our evolution through space accurately emulates life’s dense nonlinearity of moral development, against the grain of what these fantasies normally oversimplify with distracting false promises.

When we hear the "goodness/greatness" line pre-quest, we may estimate that the moral of the film will be that goodness is living blind -but safe- in complacency, and greatness is facing these unexpected challenges with courage. Instead, the utility of "courage" is smashed, and the thematic trajectory turns into a more complex idea that greatness is facing obstacles, with the asterisk of acceptance that there will be no material rewards, externalized honor, or reprieve from pain as part of some grandiose 'deal'. Life is supposed to be challenging and uncomfortable, objectives puzzling sans auto-outcome of enlightenment. If A Ghost Story focused on the humility of rightsizedness in hindsight, The Green Knight is about affirming life with violently imposed philosophical turbulence that crafts humility in the present.

I haven't read the source material, but since Sausage pondered aloud about how the film will treat misogyny, I think Lowery addresses it quite well within the context of his theme.
SpoilerShow
Since Patel's character is repeatedly exposed as unheroic, not because he is weaker than the average man but because he is an average man and thus not superior or more capable of acting heroically within the confines of his limited supply of tools, all misogynistic content is reflectively ousted as products of institutionalized and individualized (but not idiosyncratically personalized) weakness. Patel refuses to admit that he loves the prostitute he's in a relationship with, because the classist norms of his milieu prevent him from expressing his true feelings- though he can't even admit them later to Alicia Vikander's other role (a sly doubling!) when she prompts him to convey his affections- a hint that Patel cannot, at this stage, be honest with himself. He also caves into lust a la Homer's Odyssey in one of the more unglamorous depictions of sexual drives trumping ethics I've seen- in part because it comes after so many relentlessly missed opportunities for growth that we're fully engrossed in the muck of this insurgent scathing of developmental stagnancy.

In his second objective, Patel is about to commit the selfless act of finding Winifred's head, before he turns around and is compelled to ask what he'll get from her in return. Her surprised response deflates his ego with shame, revealing his expectations for a contractual relationship sourced in power dynamics; gendered or not, they're all pitiful. And then there is what may be the most powerful moment of the film, that propels it into Greatness: the flash-forward imaginations of Patel as he realizes the banal consequences of his culturally-imposed and selfishly-expected 'contractual relationships' with women, society, and himself; assumptions of his own fate born from a fallacious idea of 'honor'. This faux-code plays out like a more emotionally-resonant, and thus more tragic Barry Lyndon fast-forwarded. Lowery tinkered with time masterfully in A Ghost Story and condenses this skill into a tight yet hefty ten minute montage of anticlimactic despair, consequently occurring as a result of following fantastical presumptions. How self-reflexive for a fantasy film that deposes its own genre myth to become more authentic to 'reality' than most films donning our iconography and taking place in our very world!
Lowery recognizes that our world is full of mistrust, but instead of either dishonorably resolving this inherent truth or humiliating his antihero for failing to dominate a condition that he is powerless over, Lowery understands that either binary option would be disingenuous. He doesn’t shame Patel's mistrust, nor does he cynically cower from it- he simply lets it be with supreme validation. With that broad impartial, subdued compassion births an opportunity for us as the audience to assess the scenes based on our own vantage points. There are times when I was skeptical and other times when I endorsed the reactionary exhibitions of Patel (I mean, I'd flinch at giants too- but their response is gentle, and reminded me of when I've gone to pet an animal before it trusts me, a necessary process to cultivate that trust on both sides..)

So where do we end up, and what is the 'lesson'? I think it's that any wisdom we glean comes in trusting one’s own gut rather than external ideology. There are all these socially-enforced ideas of courage and nobility that we rely on with too much confidence, and that are to some extent unavoidable to expel from consideration. But death comes for you one way or another, and so inside that inescapable fatalism, the only choice is how you live your life now. Even while on this earth, one cannot evade hardship- the green rot persists. We can only do the next right thing, and the 'right' version of whatever that is comes from within. I think it has something to do with letting go, letting go of protective mirages of security as a gateway to resigning fear; dropping that green magic belt, which only holds us together only by forcing us to play it safe. We won't grow through that strategy, for that armor infects us spiritually, and we'll only look back on our life depressed and with regret. What happens if we do surrender the security and fear- will it automatically save us? Lowery's ending answers that question in the only fair and mature way he possibly could.

User avatar
The Pachyderminator
Joined: Tue Oct 03, 2017 9:24 pm

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)

#35 Post by The Pachyderminator » Mon Aug 02, 2021 2:42 am

SpoilerShow
In the original, Gawain is a near-perfect exemplar of knightly virtues such as honor, valor, and chastity (with the crucial difference between perfect and near-perfect being the hinge on which the drama turns). In this version of the story, obviously, Gawain is no sort of exemplar, but, interestingly, not because these virtues don't exist or don't matter in the world of the film. They exist, but Gawain doesn't live up to them. In fact, he's very passive for most of the events, mostly just doing what he's told and fearful of commitment, even a negative commitment. Going to seek the Green Chapel, and possibly his own death, simply to keep a promise, doesn't seem to be the sort of thing he would do on his own, only Arthur expects it of him - and Arthur himself is remarkably believable as the kind of king who could create a culture where courage and keeping faith are the norm. Gawain himself is rather foggy on these concepts - otherwise he couldn't say yes to Sir Bertilak's ironic question about "honor" being something you do once, and that takes care of it.

(Sir Bertilak is the knight in the castle who goes hunting. I don't remember if he states his name in the film, but I'll use the name for convenience.)

The side quest for St. Winifred's head points to Gawain's failure to grasp the ideals of a knight errant in asking about a reward, but also as an example, in Winifred's murder as described, of the chastity that Gawain doesn't possess, purity even unto death. Lionizing a victim of deadly sexual violence for her purity is uncomfortable for modern audiences and for good reason, but the film deliberately centers this discomfort in setting up Gawain's moral struggle - especially since, as I recall, this whole episode isn't in the original at all, but here becomes a crucial part of what the film is doing.

Once at Sir Bertilak's castle, the structure starts to break down. In the original, when Gawain and Bertilak play their game, they have two successful exchanges - Bertilak hands over the animals he's caught, and Gawain passes on the kisses he's received from Bertilak's wife. Only on the third day does Gawain receive the magic girdle and cheat by keeping it a secret instead of passing it on. Here the game begins a day later and ends a day earlier, so the upshot is that Gawain basically does nothing right, not even a low-stakes game. (In addition to the girdle, it seems that Gawain owed Bertilak more than just a kiss! I briefly wondered if they would actually have sex - it would have been just as appropriate as the sex scene with the lady.)

The "last temptation of Gawain" sequence is perfectly in line with everything we've seen of his (lack of) character. Perhaps I should be embarrassed to say this, but I didn't see the reversal coming, and was afraid the film would end on a depressing note of total failure. Instead, Gawain performs the first "honorable" act that's truly of his own volition, dropping the magical protection to which, by the rules he agreed to, he isn't entitled. In this, he's a very modern sort of protagonist - not a paragon of virtue, but a desperately flawed individual for whom the best outcome is to refuse that one bad choice that would tip him over the edge into something irredeemable, leaving in its place an unresolved ambiguity that conceals somewhere the possibility for growth.

Numerous questions remain. Is the Green Knight as independent a power as he seems, inscrutable as the earth itself, or are we to understand that the entire adventure is under the aegis of the witchcraft practiced by Gawain's mother? If so, does Gawain subvert or submit to it? What's the significance of Gawain's mother giving him a green belt at the beginning of his journey just like the one he'll receive later, and the Oedipal flavor this lends to it all? I don't know how to reconcile the various mythologies at play or whether it all hangs together, but even if not, this was a rewarding watch.
Formally, I love a lot of what Lowery does. There's the interplay of fast (but very fluid) cutting with long takes. My favorite sequence might be when Gawain is first setting out: the preparation for the journey is a complex set of invocations - to Jesus and Mary, to chivalry, to a darker and more pagan magic - that run together rapidly, only to culminate in the long take of Gawain on his horse that twwb mentioned. There's also a very thoughtful use of the desaturated color palette that seems de rigeur in medieval films these days: brightly colored objects are hidden under dark interiors, night, and endless storms, breaking out in significant glimpses. Green, in particular, is more talked about than seen, just as the mystery it represents is approached only uncertainly (and is it the color of life and growing things, or of death and sickness? it's not too clear), but when it does appear it's almost frightening. Gawain's cowardice is very yellow, while lust burns with blue fire.

A random question, what is the very brief, almost subliminal image that flashes around the time Gawain leaves Bertilak's castle? Were we supposed to recognize it? I think it was a painting, but I couldn't process it.

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)

#36 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Aug 02, 2021 10:20 am

Nice insights- I agree that virtues matter and exist in the world of the film, but the key difference for me is that they are subjectively-defined and this subverts an idea of objectively-defined morality. Everyone within Gawain's milieu seems to support this superficial idea of what honor is, but King Arthur and his wife mention the idea that having a story to tell is the point of life, finding honor oneself via self-respect rather than chasing externally-granted respect without the legwork of personal growth. Gawain doesn't learn lessons at the typical junctions, which throws us off from a scent of moral possibility, but is tried and true for the delayed revelations of experience.
The Pachyderminator wrote:
Mon Aug 02, 2021 2:42 am
SpoilerShow
Numerous questions remain. Is the Green Knight as independent a power as he seems, inscrutable as the earth itself, or are we to understand that the entire adventure is under the aegis of the witchcraft practiced by Gawain's mother? If so, does Gawain subvert or submit to it? What's the significance of Gawain's mother giving him a green belt at the beginning of his journey just like the one he'll receive later, and the Oedipal flavor this lends to it all? I don't know how to reconcile the various mythologies at play or whether it all hangs together, but even if not, this was a rewarding watch.
The film is (obviously) deliberately ambiguous here, but the nature of the Green Knight is thematically-sound, since it embodies both death and life, as the Lady indicates.
SpoilerShow
So while Gawain's fate is unseen, he is both submitting and subverting its power, under the logic that through surrender and acceptance of our circumstances we gain a humble shred of power over that we cannot control, simply by 'choosing' within those confines and not resisting with futility. Gawain's mother's participation in the witchcraft is a fun unexplained detail, which I choose to believe is a gesture of good faith to assist her son in establishing the beginning of a "story," but one that he cannot be coddled in finishing, for which he is alone to do with his own agency.

User avatar
Persona
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:16 pm

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)

#37 Post by Persona » Fri Aug 06, 2021 1:52 pm

This is a tricky film to peg in terms of what exactly it is trying to do and what kind of audience it wants to reach and what it wants to say (and it certainly seems to be wanting to say something).

It's quite easy to see why a general audience would not like this film. The aesthetics are grand (and sometimes a bit much, between all manners of title cards and music which at times gets a bit overbearing) but aside from that, there's not much here in the way of entertainment or a hook. The humor is brief and muted, the attempt at romance is slight, there isn't really action to speak of, the adventure is elongated and elliptical (and at times so episodic you almost feel you are watching a miniseries), and I'm not even sure it works dramatically.

But the movie's definitely got vibes. And certainly a lot of craft in it. It feels like a movie that someone like Ridley Scott might have made back in the '80s, back when Ridley was really on one.

There is an air to it that captures some of what my imagination felt when I would read these Arturian legends and fables as a kid. It feels like there are all sorts of strange things happening not just within the frame but outside of it. And you are left to wonder whether the magic is real or not -- or whether magic is something that goes beyond however you might try to define it.

THE GREEN KNIGHT is a difficult movie to recommend. I myself am not exactly over the moon for it. It reminded me quite a lot of A GHOST STORY, a film which I felt thought itself a little more clever than it was and had a baggy second act, and THE GREEN KNIGHT has similar issues. All that said, for myself, I'm glad I saw this. It casts a spell.

User avatar
Persona
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:16 pm

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)

#38 Post by Persona » Sat Aug 07, 2021 6:11 pm

SpoilerShow
There are a number of things about this movie that I am not sure what to make of:

Gawain's mother was mentioned in this thread already. Her particular involvement in this story and her motivation is borderline inscrutable. Every theory I have for it doesn't completely jive with everything her character does or how the character is represented.

I am really not sure what to make of the fox, especially in light of its perfunctory exit from the story. I could not hear its dialogue well and maybe that would have shed some light. Certainly comparing it to the fox in the original poem doesn't help at all.

There are a number of stylistic flourishes in the film that seem nearly arbitrary. But one that really stood out to me is when Gawain dives into the pool for Winifred"s head and suddenly red light shines through the water then fades out. What was that about? In light of the Lady's late monologue about red vs. green, are we to take the red light as symbolizing Gawain's "flight" response to his task, fearing for his life? Or something? Or did Lowery just think it would look cool?

Aside from that and the blood splatters, red isn't really much a part of the film's color story. Which makes one wonder how much the film thought through some of its thematic and aesthetic connections. There is an absolutely perplexing cross dissolve between the little bell and some hallucinogenic mushrooms that Gawain ingests. Are tokens of love to be considered the same as drugs? Or mistaken for sustenance, when in fact they are empty and perhaps even dangerous? Or am I, again, trying to read an arbitrary stylistic choice as something more than arbitrary?

The opening credits scene struck me as almost Tarkovskian in its viewing of an inexplicable moment about the world around the story as opposed to the story itself. Thing is, Tarkovsky was a master of weaving poetic observation and narrative so that the fabric of his films were completely composed of those two things intricately brought together and forming each other. In GREEN KNIGHT I am left wondering if those animals and that man and woman and that burning building were part of a creatively integrated dream sequence, so much do they not seem to exist once Gawain is splashed awake.

And what of the woman's voice at the very beginning that gradually modulates until it sounds like a demon? You think that maybe this voice will have some later significance, but no.

I guess I should just sit back and appreciate a film that doesn't try to be overly schematic in connecting its dots, but it's a fine line between evocative and scatterbrained, and I think this film is a lot of both.

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)

#39 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Aug 07, 2021 7:17 pm

Persona wrote:
Sat Aug 07, 2021 6:11 pm
SpoilerShow
Gawain's mother was mentioned in this thread already. Her particular involvement in this story and her motivation is borderline inscrutable. Every theory I have for it doesn't completely jive with everything her character does or how the character is represented.
SpoilerShow
I already spoke about this upthread, but I agree that her motivations are intentionally inscrutable, yet this ambiguity is fitting for the story: Is her function to establish a situation that forces her son to sober from his wasted life of complacency to engage in a quest towards existential grace and self-betterment? Or is she just as nebulously flawed as Gawain himself- a man who we root for in part, but whose psychology clearly entertains misogynistic and contractual expectations from relationships; her own defective characteristic being a compulsive magnetism towards witchcraft... is that all so different from Gawain's own compulsions to gravitate towards id and shallow-ego functions?
Persona wrote:
Sat Aug 07, 2021 6:11 pm
SpoilerShow
I am really not sure what to make of the fox, especially in light of its perfunctory exit from the story. I could not hear its dialogue well and maybe that would have shed some light. Certainly comparing it to the fox in the original poem doesn't help at all.
SpoilerShow
I believe the fox tells Gawain to not continue his journey and to go home. Its service to the story is also vaguely left up to interpretation, especially since I think the voice work is Sean Harris, the king who has affirmed Gawain's accountability to engage in this quest now telling him to retreat. A few thoughts: We can view the fox as either a companion who has affection for Gawain and thus earnestly wants him to protect him, in the form of a device that accompanies him representing enigmatic but non-interventionist love (i.e. a corporeal representation of God in this world); or the fox can represent an interventionist God that confronts him with ulterior motives: to either force reflection and ignite the building-blocks of Gawain's own moral consideration as he approaches the climax or test his dedication to the quest, thereby reinforcing his energy to commit to his goals as he enters the final stretch. I wonder if, without the fox's intrusive challenge that demands pause, Gawain would have begun to have cold feet at that crossing and defaulted to cowardice earlier.

Either way the confrontation offers the realization that Gawain has free will to grow in the direction he so chooses, relevant to the existential ideas of the film's ethos; and also reminding us that, even though we may be literally 'alone' to make these choices, there are opportunities all around us to support our development, if we can emerge from our preoccupations to witness and, hopefully, embrace them.
Persona wrote:
Sat Aug 07, 2021 6:11 pm
SpoilerShow
There are a number of stylistic flourishes in the film that seem nearly arbitrary. But one that really stood out to me is when Gawain dives into the pool for Winifred"s head and suddenly red light shines through the water then fades out. What was that about? In light of the Lady's late monologue about red vs. green, are we to take the red light as symbolizing Gawain's "flight" response to his task, fearing for his life? Or something? Or did Lowery just think it would look cool?
SpoilerShow
I'm sure part of the explanation is that it's aesthetically pleasing since this scene beings the gradual unraveling of groundedness into surrealism that doesn't connect with the internal logic of the milieu. However, its inclusion could be significant coming directly after Gawain feeling shame for instinctually initiating a contractual relationship with Winifred. That he is feeling this shame as he decides to just do 'the next right thing' or ' go with God' or whatever, allows a direct link between the fortification of spiritual gifts that come from acting morally without expectations or hinged on selfish consequences.

I read it as a passive moment of insight for the serene opportunities to see beyond the myopic scope of narcissism if we just let go, something that is immediately rewarded for Gawain, but that he (thankfully) doesn't sustain as permanent "knowledge" since a large theme of this film is how we don't simply attain and sustain emotional progression as procured information to utilize at will. Lowery's comprehension of mankind as emotional beings, continually susceptible to nonlinear behavioral and thinking patterns without judgment, is heartening. He knows that's not how life works, and doesn't care to disingenuously subvert that realism within a fantasy epic.

User avatar
DarkImbecile
Ask me about my visible cat breasts
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 6:24 pm
Location: Albuquerque, NM

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)

#40 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Aug 13, 2021 5:09 pm

As someone with only the most passing familiarity with the original poem and medieval literature in general, in the moment I enjoyed this primarily for the visuals (the two long 360-degree takes in particular) and its tonal and narrative unpredicatability. But as I've read more about the film's connections to and deviations from the source material (both the review Sausage links to above and Alissa Wilkinson's review in Vox) the more I think it's a deeper and richer film than I had initially appreciated.
SpoilerShow
I particularly valued the comparison in Wilkinson's review to Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, which is what I immediately thought of during the standout sequence, the near-dialogue-free exploration of Gawain's possible future after sacrificing his honor for self-preservation.
Like twbb, I'm also a huge fan of A Ghost Story, but while I've appreciated elements of his other work, Lowery strikes me as a director whose interest in exploring concepts (both thematic and cinematic) often only haphazardly connects with the — often adapted, interestingly — narratives he's working with, which leads to projects that feel less than fully realized and — for whatever other commendable parts they may be made up of — less than a satisfactory whole. This film felt like it was falling into similar potholes in the moment, from its sometimes jarringly episodic structure to the often defiantly indecipherable motivations of its supporting characters, but on further reflection, the strength of Gawain's core narrative (and Patel's performance) anchors the more surreal elements and elevates this beyond a visually exciting exercise in production design and cinematography.

Anyway, for those who might be similarly ignorant of Arthurian ephemera and had a cool initial response, I strongly recommend reading up on it after a first watch; I'm fairly certain digging into this again on a future viewing will be quite rewarding. Also very curious to see what Mr Sausage has to say about the various liberties and departures Lowery takes from the source material...


User avatar
feihong
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 12:20 pm

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)

#42 Post by feihong » Mon Aug 23, 2021 1:23 am

So I suppose this movie is really about trying to make it in Hollywood, right? So you start out and it's like everyone already expects you to make it, you know? And you don't know what you want, really, but your dad's kind of famous and rich, and so you feel like you ought to follow in his footsteps, and the door's not exactly barred to you. And maybe it means something that your dad's wife seems to approve of you, too, but in a way that just makes you feel more pressure, you know? And you just want everybody to like you, and so when that guy appears with that production deal so crazy no one wants to take it, well, you just jump at it, and people all think you're pretty cool for doing that––though you sort of get the sense that your dad maybe didn't expect you to take it? So that's confusing. But you're young, and you've got ideals. And you've got ideas. You know that if you take your chance, you can do something so cool, everyone'll be impressed by it. So you go for it; you take the deal nobody else would take. You're going to make it work for you.

And then when you get out there in the thick of it, making your movie, you learn right away on the internet that the plebs are actually your toughest critics; they'll strip you bare and belittle you in front of everyone, but you survive all that, maybe, and you end up having your adventure, and while your at it, you discover that you're starting to become kind of famous. And suddenly everybody wants a piece of you, and start to learn that maybe what some people want of you is stuff you don't want at all, but being famous and making the deal sometimes means doing the stuff you don't want to do to get where you want to go. And sure, that bearded creep kissed you, but you're a little concerned that maybe you brushing it off came across as a little bit cringe? Maybe too abrupt, a little too outraged, considering no one else was around, and he was a real cool guy to you before that, letting you crash at his mansion and fool around with his wife and all. And as you keep going with your project and you learn a lot of good lessons, like maybe you don't want to work with animals again––something you'll probably avoid in the future, if you can survive long enough in this business to pick your projects a little more carefully. And then somewhere along the way it occurs to you that there are giants out there, and you suspect that, in spite of all your good ideas and strong ideals, you're still not really big enough or good enough to really be their equal. And you want to ride their shoulders all the way to glory, but when it comes time to pony up, you chicken out, because really, who wants to be so high up there, anyway? It just makes you a target for everybody who wants your throne. Better to keep your head down, until you've made it, so you're too powerful for anyone to mess with you.

So finally you come to what looks like the end of the road, and you've got to make a decision. And somehow you know it's sink or swim...maybe even life or death. Can you hack it in this world? Is a life in the movies really for you? Because you realize that success and getting what you want means compromise, and you've got to make a big one, 'cause you're sitting there, facing the big guy, and he's there with this absurd demand for you––one that means mortgaging all of your integrity and sincerity just to get your goddamn project made. Maybe it means giving up all the crutches you've had until now, your fancy clothes, your dignity; even that cool scarf you got from that lady who jerked you off with it in that mansion––that was a crazy night, wasn't it? Was she on coke? And suddenly your whole future flashes before your eyes, and you can see how it's all gonna be; all the compromise, the cowardice, the fear, going from one deal to the next, just gritting your teeth and keeping your head down, and you can see yourself turning into your father, despite his clear disappointment of you, and you realize it'll all be the same, and that every woman in your life was really just that one woman you wanted so badly when you were a teenager––appearing to you again and again as so many different people––and you can see it's all going to be disappointment, cowardice, and failure, because you went about this all wrong, acting like a b*tch when you should have carried yourself like a god-damn king. And at the last minute, you realize you don't even care anymore. It's all too much. F*ck it, let's just die tonight, right? What does any of it matter? Compromise? You'll do whatever the big guy wants, you're so crazy and afraid everyone will see what a coward and a fraud you are. And so you say okay, and Harvey Weinstein sits down next to you, puts his hand on your shoulder, and says, "well done."

Bravo, sir knight. Now you're a f*cking legend.

----------------------

I don't know quite what it was I wanted from this movie and didn't get, because the cinematography is genuinely gorgeous, the acting is pretty top-tier, and, as people have already said on the thread, it certainly seems to be about something––though what that would be, I really have no more idea than anyone else does. i just know that when I compare this to other artsy medieval epics, ones I genuinely like, this film feels lacking. There is an urgency, I feel, to Andrei Rublev or Marketa Lazarova, and a necessity to those films, which I just don't find here. Even Excalibur, by comparison, seems to have more rangy interests, more of a feel that something unexpected, rough or raw could suddenly happen. And somehow, the artful way and the incessant high quality of The Green Knight begins to grow monotonous as the film wears on––in spite of the intimacy of the mis en scene, the Malick–like editing and all the mumbled, unintelligible, "verite" lines and visionary set pieces, there is a pomposity buried deep in this picture (so deep that it's barely visible, but still irkingly present), coupled with what seems to me to be a lack of a contemporary, organizing purpose for this movie to even exist––which leaves it only slightly more moving or impressive than a local pageant or a puppet show. So for me it was a disappointment. It wasn't urgent enough as an art picture, and it wasn't entertaining enough to be schlocky and fun. It did make me interested, though in seeing the Canon adaptation of the material, featuring Sean Connery as the Green Knight. That version looks genuinely stupid. If it's as fun as Masters of the Universe I probably won't complain.

bakofalltrades
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2015 2:23 pm

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)

#43 Post by bakofalltrades » Mon Aug 23, 2021 2:04 pm

“Well, everyone knows Gawain was a chivalrous knight. What this film presupposes is... maybe he wasn’t.”

Saw this film on opening night, and that was one of my first thoughts.

Have to say it did nothing for me then, and has pretty much dissipated from my mind. Having read some of the reviews/analyses linked earlier in the thread, I’m a bit surprised people are so taken with the reinterpretation of Gawain’s character; is it anything more than an arthouse equivalent of all the Disney villain reinterpretations we’ve seen for the past decade or so? Wicked with an A24 filter applied?

Isn’t it almost a cliche these days, this kind of revision?

User avatar
Julian Brand
Joined: Mon Aug 30, 2021 7:31 am

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)

#44 Post by Julian Brand » Mon Aug 30, 2021 7:39 am

A Majestic mystery movie with an Incredible storyline open to interpretation and a must watch.
The movie is an intriguing and exhilaratingly daring venture. There seems to be no attempt to update the tale or make it visually pleasing to the viewers. The Green Knight, featuring Dev Patel, is a rollicking adventure story, to be sure, but it feels like it was plucked out of another pages of history, with eerie energies and a hint of the crude and profane lingering to the margins. Director David Lowery chose a narrative that many men struggle with in english class, presented Patel as the uncomfortable protagonist, and used that to investigate how stories are created.

With its sloppy narrative framework, “The Green Knight's” technological aspects become even more crucial to the film's success. Lowery has enlisted the help of his talented crew, which includes composer Daniel Hart and cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo. The flowing videography shifts from dreamy and intimately linked to Mother Nature.

User avatar
DarkImbecile
Ask me about my visible cat breasts
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 6:24 pm
Location: Albuquerque, NM

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)

#45 Post by DarkImbecile » Wed Sep 22, 2021 8:27 pm


User avatar
diamonds
Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2016 2:35 pm

Re: The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)

#46 Post by diamonds » Wed Sep 22, 2021 10:35 pm

Interesting read. Can't say I agree at all that the ending is nihilistic, and I think this:
SpoilerShow
Gawain lays down his head in the end, not because he has learned that courage in the face of death is part of a life well lived, but because the idea of a life well lived no longer has meaning to him.
is a misreading of Gawain's motivations in the scene that the film has developed up to that point. I don't purport to know the poem as well as the author does, but nevertheless here are some scattershot thoughts.
SpoilerShow
Like almost every piece I've read on the film, this one discusses the ending in terms of The Last Temptation of Christ. I haven't seen that film (shame on me!), so it wasn't the first thing that occurred to me when watching it; I was instead most reminded of Welles' Chimes at Midnight. This began superficially at the outset (the film's Gawain is introduced living a similar lifestyle to Henry/Falstaff in Welles' film, rollicking in brothels and shirking his palace duties), but it extended all the way to that vision sequence at the end, which I think is clearly intended to be a vision (not whatever the author says about "multiverses").

Chimes at Midnight ends with a few lines that compress the decades of Henry's rule that occur after the main events of the film, and we learn that despite (or because of?) his betrayal he went on to become a generous and revered king:
So humane withal, he left no offense unpunished, nor friendship unrewarded. For conclusion a majesty was he that both lived and died a pattern in princehood, a lodestar in honor, and famous to the world alway.
Lowery's film offers something of a flip of this: a visual illustration of Gawain's rule in which (as the author correctly notes) he is an utter failure of a ruler: he cruelly abandons Essel, he sends his son to his death in battle, he is ridiculed and scorned by his subjects, and he presides over a crumbling kingdom.

Lowery's Gawain is very clearly an inverse of the one in the poem. Whereas the one in the poem maintains his honor at every step of the way save for one—withholding the girdle so as to save his own life—Lowery's Gawain fails at every single step of his journey. Even in the encounter with Winifred, which the author regards as Gawain's one noble act, seemingly neglecting what is to my mind a crucial exchange:
Gawain: If I go in there and find it, what would you offer me in exchange?

Winifred: Why would you ask me that? Why would you ever ask me that?
The point of this is pretty clear I think; Gawain has no conception of chivalry for its own sake. Instead he seeks a transactional reward, and it isn't until he's met with Winifred's offended astonishment that he begins to reevaluate his position.

Now, this is the main swathe I take issue with:
One revealing way to approach the question of Gawain’s fate is to consider the significance of his removal of the girdle in the Green Chapel. It’s a kind of triumph, even in the Green Knight’s eyes. But what kind of triumph is it?

We must resist any inclination to interpret this action in the moral framework of the poem. For the poet’s Gawain, giving up the girdle, like facing the Knight in the first place, is an obligation of troth under the terms of his two “games.” The film, though, doesn’t care about the games, nor about the poem’s ideals of troth, courtesy, chastity, and knightly virtue.

In the poem, the girdle becomes a token of Gawain’s dishonesty regarding the terms of the exchange-of-winnings game. In the film, the girdle is a token of Gawain’s fear of death: the same fear that initially prompts him to distrust the girdle and run away, leading to the King Gawain sequence. From that point on, in the logic of The Green Knight, he’s on borrowed time—his head already forfeit, kept on his shoulders solely by the magic girdle. When, overcome by ennui or despair, he finally removes it, his head immediately rolls off.

Gawain’s triumph in the end, then, is simply that he accepts the inevitability of death, or is even ready to welcome it.
Just because the film doesn't depict the seduction game doesn't mean it doesn't "care" about the games. Again, Lowery has built a different Gawain, and the point in his fleeing Bertilak's manor early is to compound his cowardice and failure—not only has he withheld the girdle, but he also doesn't return the sexual favor that he eagerly accepted from Bertilak's wife.

Yes, the girdle is a token of his fear of death (as it certainly is in the poem), but to imply that the film somehow fails to depict it also as a token of his dishonesty in the game is ridiculous. Throughout his vision the girdle is explicitly shown as a blemish representing his moral failure, as everything that happens in it flows from his decision to renege on his agreement with the Green Knight.

That is why his one true noble act is to tear it off and accept his fate, a clear recognition of the "obligation of troth." Like Barry Lyndon, this is the one single honorable decision he makes, one that could cost him his life, and he makes it because he has glimpsed a life without honor and knows that it is not worth living. (The author's assertion quoted above that "a life well lived no longer has meaning to him" seems to me completely at odds what the vision implies). Lowery withholds closure one way or another as to whether or not the Knight lops his head off, which is crucial because it makes Gawain's choice one that recognizes the value of honor in and of itself, not as something transactional that could for example guarantee earthly deliverance/salvation.

It's the opposite of nihilism, it's restorative of virtue. I had mixed feelings about the film overall (I too did not see the point of the Morgana changes), but I did find the ending moving. The suggestion that following through with your word is worth doing even in the face of certain defeat is I think a valuable one, put across with considerable power, and it's certainly in keeping with what I know of the poem's ideals, just calibrated for a different audience.

Post Reply