Gawain and the Green Knight has been given “the Hollywood treatment”! See this article. You can also read about the film here and here It’s directed by David Lowery and stars Dev Patel and Alicia Vikander.
Well, having now seen it, I fear that if the anonymous author had too, he’d be taking serious steps to make sure he STAYED anonymous. Or he’d be threatening to sue!
The treatment of the wonderful old tale brought out the sourpuss in me. You see I’d settled down in the hope of a lovely medieval treat…but it was definitely not a treat and was only pseudo medieval. To be honest, it does describe itself as a fantasy…which word clearly applies to the costumes. For instance it features a woman wearing a headdress that makes her look like a hammerhead shark. I know the period had some very strange headgear, but this looked utterly daft.
Be warned, the film is also one of those colour-but-not-really-colour productions. At least, that was my experience for as much of it as I could stand. I certainly didn’t last to the end. Why not film in black and white and have done with it? The opening scene had a husky sotto voce female narrator whom I didn’t understand. Old Sourpuss’s hearing ain’t what it used to be. And this against a background of a medieval farmyard, with geese and a goat.
Gawain himself starts off as a sort of down-and-out Shakespearean Prince Hal. He wakes up in a straw-stuffed old bed (in a loft, I think) having spent the night with his girlfriend.. He’s dirty, stinks of booze and has a hangover. Sir Gawain? One of King Arthur’s noble, chivalrous Knights of the Round Table? Oh, dear.
As for the riotous feast with which the original story opens, this one has a very well-behaved gathering of knights around the Round Table. All rather scruffy. No tankards and huge banquet, in fact they’re so subdued they almost whisper together. The camera homes in on Arthur and Guinevere. The king is old, grey and sickly, and his queen certainly isn’t the great beauty for whom Lancelot cast chivalry and caution aside. One thing leaps out immediately, because not only do they wear crowns, but they have holy halos as well. You know the ones… a circle of rays behind the head. Arthur has an accent I can’t identify because he, like the opening voice-over, speaks in a husky sotto voce. Gawain is invited to sit with Arthur and queen.
At last the Green Knight arrives, looking like a green sea monster with spikes/horns on his head. Actually, all colours are so subdued and shadowy that at first it’s difficult to discern his greenness. He hands over a sealed note – green seal, of course. Guinevere accepts it and reads it aloud…in a rough male voice, because some supernatural force has invaded her. She then collapses and the note self-combusts.
So, the Green Knight’s challenge is issued, and only Gawain stands to accept it. At this point we see blood oozing over furniture and steps. Not a lot, I grant you, but hellfire, not a blow has been struck yet! But, goaded by the jolly green giant, Gawain slices its head off and the chivalrous chaps of the Round Table give him rousing applause.
The point at which I gave up on this film (out of boredom, to be honest) was when Gawain sets out a year later. Riding across colourless winter countryside. I didn’t care if he survived the Green Knight or not. Nor did I care if the film worked up to a splendiferously rousing, Technicolor finale.
The stories of King Arthur and his knights are wonderful, colourful and exciting. The portion of this film that I managed to endure contrived to make the tale of Gawain and the Green Knight anything but. There was nothing about it that I could recommend.