This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
trillietitan’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
On Christmas morning, an act of witchcraft summons a bizarre wooden knight to the mortal realm. He brazenly strolls into the throne room of a medieval king and issues a challenge to all in attendance-- partake in a violent game and he will grant the victor his axe, with the caveat that whoever dares to challenge him must seek him out one year later to do so again.
The titular figure in David Lowery's The Green Knight is decapitated on the spot, we cut to a little more than eleven months later-- and Gawain's quest begins. The film will follow his journey across the far reaches of the kingdom as he searches for the mythical Green Chapel, aided (and occasionally hindered) by an array of beings with questionable ulterior motives-- some of which are human, and others that are something else entirely.
I tend to think that I'm typically pretty capable of understanding complex films, but in all honesty this film completely baffled me. There's clearly a ton of complex moral dilemmas and interesting themes to dissect here, and I'd like to say that I understood a significant amount of what the film was trying to convey-- but that would be a fucking lie. Maybe I'm just not versed enough in Arthurian legend to fully comprehend all of the elements at play, or maybe it's just that complicated regardless of how much background knowledge the viewer may have-- either way, it certainly didn't all register for me.
The scene with the scavenger and his band of thieves was relatively straightforward in its messaging, and even though there were a couple of twists involved I was able to work it all out fairly easily. The severed head at the bottom of the spring was significantly more challenging, but its major themes still ultimately made sense as well. But the entire section with the mysterious lord and lady who temporarily shelter Gawain? That's where the film defeated me. And Jesus fucking Christ, that ending-- I thought I had recovered slightly and pieced together its major messages fairly well, but the ambiguity of the final minutes broke my brain one more time.
I definitely enjoyed The Green Knight for a lot of reasons-- its absolutely beautiful, the surrealism of it all is absolutely captivating, and the performances are incredible. But I definitely didn't get everything I should have out of it, and it's honestly pretty difficult to judge the film fairly solely from my first impressions. I have a feeling that this will rise significantly in my personal estimation with another watch now that I'm more prepared for what it has to offer, as is the case with many A24 films-- but for the time being, I'm honestly just pretty goddamn confused.