December 7, 2021

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‘The Green Knight’ Isn’t for Everyone

David Lowery’s new film The Green Knight puts a modern spin on the classic Arthurian tale “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Fantasy author Lara Elena Donnelly appreciated the film’s surreal, dreamlike quality.

“I liked just sort of living in the world of the movie as it happened, without the movie really telling me, ‘This is what’s happening now, and this is why it’s happening,’” Donnelly says in Episode 483 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It was a wild ride while it was going on.”

Fantasy author Christopher M. Cevasco enjoyed some aspects of the film, but ultimately found it hard to connect with. “There are definitely elements of this that will stay with me—really powerful visual scenes that will haunt me,” he says. “But ultimately that’s about all I will remember about this movie, is those visuals. Everything else is already fading from my memory.”

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley warns that The Green Knight is strictly for the art house crowd. “This is a movie where if people were like, ‘Should I go see this movie?’ I would say, ‘How do you feel about pretentious movies?’” he says. “If you like pretentious movies, absolutely go see it. One hundred percent. And if you hate pretentious movies and can’t stand them, don’t go see this, you’re not going to like it at all.”
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Fantasy author Erin Lindsey had mixed feelings about The Green Knight, but appreciated that it had a strong artistic vision. “I would like to see more of this,” she says. “I would like to see more fantasy that really swings for the fences, and doesn’t regurgitate the same old stuff over and over.”

Listen to the complete interview with Lara Elena Donnelly, Christopher M. Cevasco, and Erin Lindsey in Episode 483 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

David Barr Kirtley on David Lowery:

“I had super-high expectations for [The Green Knight], but on my first viewing I was really exasperated with it. I came home, and my girlfriend Steph said, ‘How was it?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, it drove me crazy. Do you know what it reminded me of? Do you remember that movie A Ghost Story that we watched?’ It’s this super-pretentious ghost movie. I was like, ‘It reminded me so much of that. It was so slow.’ And Steph says, ‘Who directed it?’ And I said, ‘This guy David Lowery. I’m not sure who he is.’ So I look him up and he’s the guy who directed A Ghost Story. And it was like, ‘OK, that makes a lot of sense.’”

Christopher M. Cevasco on ambiguity:

“I think a fair interpretation of all of the trials and travails that [Gawain] has along the way is that they’re all basically Morgan or Merlin manifesting. Otherwise how does he get the belt back even though he lost it? His horse comes back even though it was taken by the bandits. It’s because this is all part of this big thing that they’re creating. But then why are they throwing obstacles in his path? Why are they giving him things back? I don’t know. I don’t have any answers. I don’t know that there are any answers. And it may be that my interpretation is not the interpretation the director had, maybe none of our interpretations are. We just don’t know. And that’s a problem.”

Erin Lindsey on storytelling:

“I understand why [The Green Knight] is polarizing, but I definitely didn’t experience an extreme reaction one way or the other. I almost wish I wasn’t a writer when I see these types of movies—and I wish I wasn’t a writer with brutally honest agents, because a huge part of my life is deconstructing why something works or doesn’t work. Even if I love something, I’m going to nitpick it to death, because that’s just how I’m programmed now to experience stories and media. And that’s a bit of a shame, and I kind of wonder how 20-years-ago me would have experienced this film differently. But as it stands now, yeah, I did enjoy it, but I can’t help seeing what I consider to be areas for improvement.”

Lara Elena Donnelly on magic:

Holly Black was one of my Clarion instructors, and when she was talking to us about magic systems in fantasy, she said there are two kinds—there’s day logic and night logic. Day logic is the kind you can explain with rules, like in Harry Potter: If you say these words, and you move your wand like this, you get this effect. And night logic is things that just feel right, and you can’t poke too hard at it. It’s harder to write, because you have to conjure the feeling of rightness, without the explicit rules. And so to me a lot of this movie felt very night logic. You can’t push too hard on this. It’s just something that works because it feels right.”


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