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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

The Green Knight (2021)

This is a Christmas movie. Not like Die Hard is a Christmas movie. This is really, truly, honest to god a Christmas movie. Fight me.


When I saw the trailer for this last year, I was smitten. It looked weird and beautiful and medieval and that, my friends, is my song they're playing. I saw it with a dear friend in theaters and I fell hard. It was weirder and more beautiful and more medieval than I thought possible. (Though my favorite part of that night might have been listening to bros leave the theater disappointed because they expected it to be a straight up action flick and hoooooooo golly it is not.) Then I dragged Ben to see it. I am 90% sure I went to see it by myself too. It joined the list at Christmas last year and I have been aching to watch it ever since.


Also, oh my god thank goodness for subtitles. I still enjoyed it but I know now that I heard maybe 5% of what Arthur was saying in the theater.


The Green Knight, as a movie, lands as hard for me as an adult as the poem missed me when I was a medieval history student. This film does an incredible job of capturing the loneliness and longing of early adulthood (right on into middle age, if I'm being honest). Particularly for those of us who, as children and young adults, held such promise. Inevitable greatness etched into our destinies. The line, "Why greatness? Why is goodness not enough?" kills me because seriously, why do we struggle as humans with the concept of "enough"? Especially when I see the weight of well-intentioned expectations burdening the college students I work with. Would Gawain have taken that swing had he not been surrounded by greatness and legend? Had Arthur not asked for a song of his accomplishments minutes before the Green Knight entered, would Gawain have volunteered?


I appreciated the mirrored visuals and overall symmetry of the script in earlier viewings but tonight it landed differently. One of Gawain's earliest lines being, "I'm not ready. I'm not ready yet" and his final lines being, "I'm ready now. Now I'm ready." I feel like a doofus but I literally did not realize (after three viewings!) that Alicia Vikander plays the Lady and Essel. In my defense, pretty young Hollywood stars all look the same to me. She might as well be Channing Tatum. But realizing that made me like the Lady arc so much more. Earlier, I thought it was a little labored and too poetic but as a foil to Essel asking to be Gawain's Lady? Heartbreaking. Devastating. I still am uncomfortable with the hand job scene.


Joel Edgerton is so fabulous as the Lord. Him screaming out "FRIEND!" to a fainting Gawain, as he stands at the top of the stairs in a bear suit? COME ON. All of his deliveries being so knowing, so winking, bring the weirdness to a crescendo that seems impossible following Gawain's journey. I kind of wish he'd played the Green Knight, like the poem, but Ralph Ineson is such a treat I can't really be mad.


I responded a lot more to the landscape of the film this time around, too. And then I learned it was shot entirely in Ireland! Not anywhere we'd actually gone, but, you know. I've been in that country now so it feels like I know it. (This is sarcasm. Mostly it's just neat to 1) realize I was conceivably near those incredible locations and 2) know that even a wee country like Ireland is so big you can spend time there and not see remotely all of it.) But I also connected to the landscape in an emotional way. This movie is deeply lonesome. Loneliness is a feeling I used to be terrified and ashamed of in myself but now I almost enjoy it, especially when I'm in the woods or just away from man made things. The feeling of being in nature by myself is so comfortable now. Deep breaths, fresh air, new sights and smells. Just me. I found myself yearning for Gawain's journey of self-discovery a bit tonight, but mostly I wanted to go for a long walk. Maybe in a couple of months when I can stand to be outside again.


Dev Patel is a gift. Visually and emotionally, what an incredible performer.


I have so much work ahead of me on this one. I knew what it was going to be a few weeks ago when a well-meaning friend sent me a brand new artform knowing that I am a glutton for punishment.


Fabric on styrofoam and MDF




Takeaways:

-This is a Japanese artform known as kinusaiga. Patchwork without sewing. When I knew I was going to do this piece, I started ferreting away scraps of fabric from student projects that otherwise would have been thrown out plus raiding my not inconsiderable fabric hoard at home. I used over 40 different fabrics. It took soooo long.

-This is a film I want to touch when I watch it. The fabric in particular. The incredible storytelling just in the various pleating techniques (primative pleats! then smocking! then knife and complex box pleating!). This felt like the perfect way to celebrate it.

-This is a film that, I think, is a lot about growing up and taking on what scares you and face your failures. I have a lot of hangups about textile arts. I am a crummy sewist. Even where I do okay, I just don't enjoy it. And as I gear up to walk away from costume design, I still feel like I need to prove myself before I go. This feels like a lovely small way to do that. That took a bloody long time. Haha

-I will absolutely be revisiting this form. I could find so little in the way of "how to" information on kinusaiga. I kind of just figured it out as I went. What little I found was like, "do a sailboat!" and I said, 'absolutely not!'. Maybe I'll do something simpler next time. HA. Not bloody likely.


Next week, he's Hans Christian Andersen, Andersen that's he! A Danny Kaye classic.


I hope you had a lovely Christmas holiday and that you kept your head, physically and otherwise.

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