The main theme of The Green Knight explained

Why is he really a GREEN knight? And what was with the really slow, rotating intermediate film bucket?

The Green Knight

A24

By Meg Shields · Released October 8, 2021

Welcome to the queue – your daily distraction of curated video content downloaded from across the internet. Today we see a video essay that explains the theme of the time in The Green Knight.


Around the midway point David Lowery‘s The Green Knight, bandits ambush our hero in a clearing. As he lies bound and gagged, the camera slowly and thoughtfully turns in a circle. The seasons change, and birdsong soon gives way to the ominous rustle of flies. The character has rotted away and left nothing but bones caressed gently in springy moss. If the film has a specialty, it is.

So what is Lowery trying to tell us?

The Green Knight is an adaptation of a knighthood from the end of the 14th century that has seeped down through the ages as one of the more well-known Arthurian legends. The story is a morbid fusion of two folk motifs: a beheading game and exchange of reward. A Knight of the Round Table, Sir Gawain (played in Lowery’s film by Dev Patel), accepts a challenge from the title character (Ralph ineson). Whoever dares to strike the Green Knight with his ax, the battle will be returned in a year’s time. Gawain decapitates the mysterious creature, who then takes his head and reminds Gawain that they will meet again.

Unlike the vast majority of his cinematic peers, Lowery’s admission of the Arthurian myth leans harder into the metaphor. And while several thematic tracks wrap Gawain into the film, its central interest ultimately boils down to one question: why is Green Knight green? Why would a deceased person share a color with lushness and rebirth?

As the video assignment below explains, the result is a powerful and inconvenient interplay between time, life, death and inevitability. And in the end, it’s not something you can – let alone should – escape.

See “What the Green Knight Wants You to Think About”:


Who made this?

This video essay on the topic of time in The Green Knight is by Virginia-based filmmaker and video editor Thomas Flight. He runs a YouTube channel under the same name. You can follow Thomas Flight and check out his back catalog of video assignments on YouTube here. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor to Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How’d They Do That ?, and Horrorscope. She is also the curator of One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. I can find screams about John Boorman’s ‘Excalibur’ on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She her).

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