BAXTER — Hear ye, hear ye, “The Green Knight” has arrived in theaters and, boy, is it a doozy.
Like a fevered dream resulting from binge-watching “Game of Thrones” and eating past one’s bedtime, “The Green Knight” defies expectations and easy explanations, which no doubt is part of the medieval fantasy’s appeal among critics but may prove more vexing for moviegoers.
The release of the R-rated feature film from idiosyncratic independent entertainment company A24 was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic but now it’s at the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter.
“The Green Knight” stars English actor Dev Patel in an imaginative and surreal adaption of the timeless poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Like the “Odyssey” by Homer, King Arthur’s nephew is on a journey and does some soul searching along the way in the motion picture.
A mysterious figure reminiscent of a walking and talking tree barges in on King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table one Christmas to challenge any there to land a blow upon him.
The Green Knight beseeches the knights to pick up a sword by asking them to indulge him in his bizarre “game,” but King Arthur’s nephew Sir Gawain is the only one who dares.
The brash, unproven and “green” Gawain earlier sheepishly admits he has no exploits, unlike the others, to tell his king when his uncle asked the young man to regale the court in a tale.
After Gawain beheads the Green Knight without a fight with King Arthur’s famed sword Excalibur, the enchanted creature picks up his head to everyone’s horror and amazement.
Gawain must reunite with the Green Knight in a year’s time, according to the game’s rules, after Gawain delivered what would have been a fatal blow, to receive one from the latter in return.
(If beheading a random and perfect stranger was considered a “game” back then, I thought to myself, “Now there's a time period in history that really could’ve used a Monopoly board or an Xbox for Christmas.”)
The headless Green Knight rides off on horseback into the surrounding mist holding his head in one hand and the reins in the other, laughing ominously and forebodingly into the air.
Whether Gawain fulfills his promise to the very end by embarking on a quest to prove his honor — and his dealings with those he meets along the way — comprise the rest of the film.
David Lowery directed, wrote, edited and produced the cinematic adaptation of the 14th-century poem. And for a movie centered around losing one’s head, it’s a real head-scratcher.
To say there is much to unpack in the two-hour movie is an understatement and like saying there is a lot of food served at a Thanksgiving dinner in the perplexing tale of chivalry and honor, especially with the nonlinear storytelling that includes spells, visions … and a talking fox.
A24, the film distribution company behind “The Green Knight,” is responsible for many movies that are remarkable for their originality and vision, such as “Ex Machina,” “Room,” “The Witch” and Oscar-winner “Moonlight.”
The question of proving oneself is at the core of Gawain’s epic adventure that perhaps fans of David Lynch’s TV series “Twin Peaks” would gravitate to as well because of the quirkiness, and for a movie about lopping off heads, “The Green Knight” will stay in yours for a while.
“The Green Knight” holds a 90% approval rating among critics and a 52% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television — an indication perhaps of how challenging general moviegoers may find the evocative film.
The critics’ consensus at RottenTomatoes.com: “‘The Green Knight’ honors and deconstructs its source material in equal measure, producing an absorbing adventure that casts a fantastical spell.”