I first saw the trailer for The Green Knight in March of 2020 preceding The Invisible Man. The otherworldly and serious, almost ominous, tone really resonated with me. “Summer,” the trailer promised, followed by the familiar and welcome logo of A24. I settled into my recliner, equal parts excited to see Elizabeth Moss deal with some invisible asshole, and for the promise of summer when I could revisit a childhood favorite: Sir Gawain and The Green Knight. Albeit, sans sparkly Sean Connery.
Well, little did I know that much like Sir Gawain, our collective honor and chivalry was about to be tested like I had never known. The week following The Invisible Man, folks started to realize that COVID was a very real threat. I spent hours at the mall looking for hand sanitizer to take on my business trip. The company I was on site for doing consulting shut down travel while I was there. The whole world suddenly felt upside down.
Fast forward a year and I’m re-watching the trailer in anticipation of the release. Seeing the Green Knight, an unkillable force of nature, tell Sir Gawain “one year hence,” I couldn’t help but feel a certain parallel to the last year. His menacing bellowing laugh echoing through the streets as well as my mind. If only someone could have told us how long we’d have to buckle down, maybe we could have done better.
I felt sad watching Sir Gawain as he tried to navigate each situation. He wants honor, he wants to be good, but when given a chance, he can never quite seem to do the right thing. Whether failing to show gratitude, expecting things in return for helping someone in need, or refusing to keep his promises, it all felt relevant in a way. This is exactly what we have witnessed over the past year with folks who think they can simply deny the reality of our situation and the possibilities destiny may have for us.
Finally, after a long strange journey, when faced with the reality of his destiny, he flinches. Annoyed, the Green Knight reminds him, “You had a year to prepare.” Gawain almost can’t believe it, like a COVID denier on his deathbed he was able to get away with acting the way he has until now. Wild-eyed, Gawain asks “Is this all there is?” And with a resounding finality the Green Knight, responds “What else could there be?”
Is Gawain able to face his destiny? Can we? Can enough of us? What else could there be, for us?
Personally, I found the movie beautiful and strange in a way; in a good way. I will admit that despite my laser-like focus, I couldn’t understand about 25% of what was said on screen. I look forward to seeing this again, with subtitles, and maybe with COVID less on my mind.