Meaning of the movie “The Green Knight” and ending explained

Meaning of the movie “The Green Knight” and ending explained Films

The Green Knight follows the adventures of Gawain (Dev Patel), the nephew of the supposed King Arthur (Sean Harris) – the ruler is not named. According to the plot, the guy, after another drunkenness, is declared in Camelot for the celebration of Christmas. During the feast, the mysterious Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) arrives at the King and Queen (Kate Dickey). An unexpected guest offers a strange “deal”: anyone can strike him and take his ax, but a year later, the daredevil must come to the Knight in the green chapel and receive a retaliatory blow. Gawain accepts the challenge and cuts off the guest’s head. However, the Green Knight, albeit headless, remains alive. The next Christmas, Gawain goes to strike back at the green chapel.

During his journey, Gawain endures severe trials. Several times he was almost ready to give up and turn back home, but nevertheless he nevertheless reached the chapel. The green knight prepares to stab Gawain, but he suddenly refuses to accept it and runs away. The guy returns home, becomes a knight, and after the death of the King and Queen takes the throne. The hero’s lover Essel (Alicia Vikander) gives birth to a boy. Gawain takes the child away from her and abandons the girl, as she is a commoner and, apparently, a prostitute. The hero marries a noblewoman who gives birth to a daughter. As a result, Gawain turns out to be a bad ruler, he dies on the throne – he takes off his protective belt, and his head flies off his shoulders.

Not the end! Gawain awakens – it was a vision of a possible future . The hero is still kneeling before the Green Knight in the chapel. Gawain decides to play fair, removes his belt and takes the hit. The green knight praises the young man and says that it’s time to part with his head.

Director and screenwriter David Lowry admitted in an interview with USA Today that he deliberately came up with such an ambiguous ending – we were never told whether the Green Knight was joking or really cut off Gawain’s head. As Lowry stressed, he hoped audiences would end the film “with a smile on their face and feeling like it’s a happy ending . 

So Lowry wanted to show that Gawain “arrived at the place where he should be” , that is, he completed his spiritual path of self-knowledge and improvement:

“I didn’t want to impose my idea because it doesn’t matter. He will die someday. Maybe at the same moment or later from old age. But he will die. We all die… The important thing is that we get better as possible. We live our lives with kindness and honesty, with a sense of righteousness that is determined not by greatness or heritage, but by our personal sense of worth.”

Perhaps the Green Knight cut off Gawain’s head to make him answer for his actions . Or the Knight played a trick on the youngster before parting with him as good friends – the Knight spoke about such a possibility at the beginning of the film.

Perfect Knight

It is interesting that neither the poem nor the film condemns the hero for weakness – only for insincerity. In this sense, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” can already be read as a sneer at the ideal knights of the past. The protagonist reproaches himself for using a magic belt in a duel and not reaching the Christian standards of virtue, while other knights, on the contrary, take his belt as a reminder of their own humanity.

Similarly, the film confronts Gawain with his own reflection—twice. The first, front, portrait is painted from him before setting off on a campaign, and, as we soon understand, this mighty hero has nothing to do with a frightened boy in chain mail. For the second portrait, Gawain is already posing on the verge of a fight with the Green Knight. It suddenly turns out that it is not the court artist who “sketches” it, but an outlandish medieval analogue of photography! And in this image, he appears as he is: full-blooded, tormented by passions, partially immersed in shadow. Wanted the perfect meta-commentary on the difference between classic and modern chivalric romances? Sign!

Returning to the parallels between Gawain and Jesus, one cannot fail to mention another obvious source of Lowry’s inspiration – Martin Scorsese’s scandalous drama The Last Temptation of Christ. The Son of God appears there in all his humanity, he longs for love, suffers from depression, is full of anxieties and doubts. A minute before his death, he imagines an alternative ending to his story: here he comes down from the cross, marries Mary Magdalene and, having grown old, watches the collapse of the world that has lost the Messiah. And only then, faced with the consequences of his desperate thirst for life, reconciled with the fear of death, Jesus gains the strength to make the last sacrifice.

This episode of The Legend of the Green Knight is quoted almost verbatim in a mesmerizing (and wordless!) fifteen-minute climax. To heighten the similarity, Lowry even introduces his own “Maria” into the story – Essel, a city prostitute and Gawain’s lover. She is the only character in the film, other than the main character, who is named by name in the credits. She is one of the first to appear in the frame: with her playful, loving eyes, we first discover the knight Gawain.

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However, no, not a knight. This is another important feature of the film: just as Scorsese’s Jesus does not immediately become the Savior, so Gawain acquires the status of “sir” only under the green axe. Which, oddly enough, does not contradict the moral code of the poem, but reinforces it. With each digression from the plot of the original source, Lowry only explores its moral essence more deeply.

In the medieval system of values, it is easy to reduce chivalry to a series of rituals, be it prayers, the laws of courtesy, or the rules of the Christmas game. The director, that is your Green Knight, is giving Gawain a test himself. It deprives him of Christian peace and faith in the world order, locks him in a frail, awkward body, from which various non-heroic fluids constantly ooze – either blood, or vomit, or semen. 

But the director believes that even in such conditions, Gawain (and each of us) is able to choose the path of honor. Not for the sake of higher goals, but for the sake of their own peace of mind. And there the green executioner is no longer terrible.

What does the scene after the credits of “The Green Knight” mean with a girl in a crown

In the post-credits scene, a mysterious girl was shown wearing the crown worn by Arthur and Gawain in a vision of a possible future. There are no explanations for what kind of girl this is – we are offered to think for ourselves who she is.

Perhaps we have before us the daughter of King Arthur – in various sources about Arthurian mythology it is mentioned that he had one daughter, whose name was Archfedd or Grega. Or is it the daughter of Gawain himself – in various sources they write that he had sons, but in a vision of the future they showed a daughter.

If this is the future daughter of Gawain, then we can assume that this is the scene after the beheading of the hero in the vision – the crown fell to the floor, and the girl began to play with it. However, Gawain still took the Green Knight’s blow, and this hints that the hero survived, returned to Camelot and became king. Gawain could not repeat his fate from the vision, for he is no longer the cocky fool he was before traveling to the green chapel. Perhaps he will not have an illegitimate child with Essel, and this girl is his first child from another woman. Or maybe Gawain gave up the crown for Essel, or found an opportunity to marry her without breaking the law.

What is the meaning of the film “The Green Knight”

Gawain’s adventure in The Legend of the Green Knight personifies personal growth : only by overcoming trials does a person know himself, improve his skills and gain strength of mind and dignity. The illusion with Gawain’s skeleton and the emphasis on the crossroads on the road are metaphors for doubt and the need to make decisions . The hero’s journey can also be seen as a metaphor for the journey of life with its difficulties and the acceptance of the inevitability of death .

The “The Green Knight” touches on the issue of ecology . Lady (Alicia Vikander) discusses why the Green Knight is green. In her opinion, this color represents both life and death – plants and rot. Hence, Gawain’s belt is green – it saves him from death and at the same time implies spiritual decay. In addition, the belt is impregnated with the seed of Gawain – a reminder of sin, weakness and temptation.

The Lady led her thought to the fact that a person considers himself the center of the universe, which is why he sometimes treats the Earth so arrogantly. The contradictory essence of man lies in the fact that he cannot live without plants and surrounds himself with the fruits of nature, however, at any whim – to build a castle, for example – he cuts down trees and levels the forest to the ground.

Answers to questions after the film “The Green Knight”

What are the rules of the Green Knight game

Calling the Green Knight in the film is called a game, which Gawain for the time being considered an innocent “quest”. According to the rules of the game, anyone can hit the Knight. However, the daredevil must take a blow of the same value . Gawain could have scratched the Knight’s hand, but instead cut off the wanderer’s head, so the answer should have been appropriate.

Since The Legend of the Green Knight tells about the moral path of the hero, the force of the blow inflicted on him could be equal to what he deserves now – after Gawain took a fresh look at life. At the beginning of the journey, Gawain was stupid and short-sighted. At the end of the journey, he realized his mistakes and gained important life experience. It can be said that during the journey, Gawain “worked out” part of his retaliatory strike, so, in theory, he should receive a light wound.

Why did Gawain’s mother summon the Green Knight?

From the scene with the pagan ritual at the beginning of the film, we learned that Gawain’s mother (Sarita Chowdhury) was involved in the appearance of the Green Knight. Perhaps the Mother was going to prove to the court that Gawain was worthy to be king. She did not approve of her son’s riotous lifestyle, and thus wanted to push Gawain to take up his mind, gain strength of mind and dignity.

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However, of all the Knights of the Round Table, anyone could accept the challenge of the Green Knight, even King Arthur himself wanted to, but could not due to poor health. This suggests that Gawain may have accidentally become part of the Mother’s plot , as was the case in the poem. Maybe Gawain’s mother just wanted to hurt her brother and his wife—to scare them and make a mess of Camelot, and her son wasn’t part of the plan. That’s why I gave Gawain the green belt.

Speaking to Vanity Fair, David Lowery said that The Legend of the Green Knight is about the intricate drama of mother and son – the director was even inspired by his relationship with his own mother while filming. According to the director, there are only contradictions in the relationship between Gawain and the Mother:

“She gives him the belt. Does this contradict what she did in the great hall on Christmas morning? The answer is that it’s just a mess. It’s a complicated relationship, and it’s probably not just my mom and I.”

Why Gawain took off his protective belt

At the end of The Legend of the Green Knight, Gawain decided to honestly take the Green Knight’s blow, so he took off his protective belt. From the vision of the future, the hero could understand that with a different outcome, a lousy king would come out of him. Gawain decided it was better to accept a possible death than such a future. The storyline with the belt also tells the viewers: be sincere with yourself and stop looking for excuses for inaction.

Whose place did Gawain take in Camelot

At the beginning of the film, Arthur invites Gawain to take the empty seat next to him. Perhaps the traitor Mordred , the illegitimate son of Arthur and his sister Morgause , sat here earlier . In some sources, another sister of the king, Fairy Morgan, is called the mother of the knight Mordred. And there is also a version that Mordred is the son of Morgause from a legal marriage. In the universe of The Legend of the Green Knight, it seems logical that Mordred is the son of Gawain’s mother and the king, since a conflict arose that led to the appearance of the Green Knight. There is no mention of the quarrel between the Mother and the King in the film, but behind the scenes there must have been family squabbles.

Who are the Lady and Lord and what did they want from Gawain

Toward the end of his journey, Gawain became a guest of the strange inhabitants of one castle – the spouses of the Lord (Joel Edgerton) and the Lady, played by Alicia Vikander, who also played the role of Essel. A mysterious elderly woman with a blindfold lives with them. Before visiting the castle, the hero’s green belt was stolen. The castle gave him another one.

The events in the castle are, rather, not part of Gawain’s test, but a temptation for him, arranged by his mother and another witch from her coven. At the beginning of the film, we were shown a ritual in which Gawain’s mother appeared with a blindfold – this refers to the old woman in the castle. One of her partners could be Lady.

Gawain was tempted to become weak, vulnerable, and adopt a green belt that protects against any kind of injury. With the help of an enchanted girdle, Gawain could trick the Green Knight and avoid death, and then become king. The lady took on the appearance of his beloved, Essel, and when he did not pass the test of lust in disgrace, she declared that he was not a knight at all – not only succumbed to temptation , but also desired the Lord’s wife.

The lord in one of the scenes said that he would take from Gawain what he would find in the castle . In the parting scene, the Lord kisses Gawain – probably this is how the hero wanted to take the Lady’s passion. The Lord also tried to get a confession from Gawain in a love affair with the Lady and the green belt. Gawain did not confess to the Lord that he failed the final test in the castle. In the poem, Gawain gave the Lord the kisses he received from the Lady, but kept the belt for himself as well.

Who are the fox, the girl without a head, bandits and titans

At the very beginning of the journey, Gawain encountered bandits who robbed him. Hooligans became part of the hero’s trials, helped him temper his character. Thanks to the bandits, the viewer realized that Gawain is only portraying a knight .

The fox became part of the temptation of Gawain – closer to the denouement, she tried to dissuade him from visiting the chapel. If this is Gawain’s mother again, then she must have been trying to protect her son in this way.

Gawain wanted to use the Titans as a vehicle to get to the green chapel faster. One of the titans said something unintelligible to him – a metaphor for the fact that ordinary people do not understand the gods – and then the giants went about their business. Probably, the titans remind the arrogant at that time Gawain how small his problems are compared to their concerns. They are like deities from whom people demand help, although they can perfectly cope on their own.

The Headless Girl Winifred (Erin Kellyman) is part of the test to see if Gawain is capable of chivalrous feats. The hero returned her head, overcoming fear. Winifred’s arc also suggests that status does not always correspond to a person’s character – even a valiant knight can turn out to be a scoundrel. The heroine compares Sir Gawain, the nephew of the king himself, with a rapist who broke into her house and cut off her head. But he seemed like a noble comrade. In another scene, Essel says that it is better to do good than to blindly strive for greatness.

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Why did Gawain doubt the need for travel, considering it pointless

Gawain himself for a long time could not understand why he went to the green chapel – and the Lord in one scene made him even more doubtful about the need for travel. The hero mindlessly goes to the goal, uncertainly repeating about honor and duty. Gawain could have been smarter and just scratched the Green Knight – or not touched him at all, but talked to him and found out what this challenge even means. Instead, the hero pathetically cut off the Knight’s head. By the end, Gawain realized that he could interrupt the journey – after all, no one forced him to go on the road – but by doing so he would turn himself into a pitiful semblance of a man. And Gawain wanted to keep his word and accept the consequences of a foolish act.

The Legend of the Green Knight raises issues of toxic masculinity and outdated ideologies of chivalry. Brave men compete with each other, flashing blades and waving their fists. As if they don’t know where to put their energy and how to prove their worth . Senseless brawls leave bloody footprints and mountains of corpses.

Differences between the film “The Green Knight” and the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”

In one scene, Lady says that sometimes she changes stories from books she has in her library when she sees that they can be improved. David Lowry changed many of the details of the poem and reinterpreted it. The director wanted to cut this episode with the Lady – he was afraid of “troubles” because of such a bold statement. However, Alicia Vikander convinced Lowry to leave the stage.

  • At the end of the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, Gawain receives a slight wound from the Green Knight – so he probably survived in the film. The green knight turns out to be Lord Bertilak – in the film this is the Lord from the castle, and the mess began because of the tricks of the evil sister of King Morgana – Aunt Gawain. Gawain comes to the Green Knight with a belt and because of cowardice does not take it off. Bertilak and Gawain remain friends anyway, but Gawain returns to Camelot with a green sash as a mark of disgrace. The hero did not have the courage to remove the belt and take the Knight’s blow without magical protection. He kept the belt for himself as a reminder of cowardice and inability to keep his word.
  • Before Gawain leaves the castle, Lady manages to seduce him. The scene in the film is sexual in nature – the guy, after a little intimacy, ejaculates on a green belt. In the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” the case was limited to kisses, after which the chaste Gawain ran to the chapel to confess.
  • In the poem, Gawain became part of the adventure by accident. The fairy king’s evil sister Morgana wanted to harm Arthur and his wife. Morgause, Gawain’s mother, was not a sorceress, and she was not behind these tricks – so there is no hint in the poem of the desire to make Gawain king. David Lowry in an interview with Den Of Geek confirmed that Gawain’s mother in the film is inspired by two heroines at once – the king’s sisters Morgause and Fairy Morgana.
  • In the film, the Green Knight resembles an ancient deity or some mythical creature in the spirit of a goblin. However, in the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” the hero appears as a handsome knight in a green robe of silk and jewels. The Green Knight is also described as a huge man resembling a giant. They did not recognize Bertilak thanks to Morgana’s magic, which transformed him.
  • King Arthur in the film is old, he is already on the verge of death – which is why he pays so much attention to Gawain, a potential heir to the throne. In the poem, Arthur is young.
  • The character of Gawain was rethought in the film – in the poem, from the very beginning, he acts as a living embodiment of knightly dignity and chastity. The adventure of Gawain from the poem makes the hero reconsider his too idealistic moral principles and allows him to look at life and people realistically.
  • In the poem, Gawain is already a knight of the Round Table, but in the film he is not yet. In addition, in the poem, Gawain hides the belt from the Knight, and in the film the hero showed it. David Lowery explained these differences to Den Of Geek this way:

“Gawain fails [in the poem] and departs from the chivalric code. He kneels before the Knight without taking off his belt, which shows cowardice. I wanted to present a dual version of this mistake and show a character who is not yet a knight of legend, but who has the potential for personal growth.”

  • Essel, the Scavenger (Barry Keoghan) and other bandits, as well as the talking fox, are not in the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”. Although Lord Bertilak’s hunt for a fox is mentioned in the original, a couple of scenes are referred to this fragment of the poem in the film. Winifred is also not in the poem – the heroine is inspired by Saint Winifred, a Welsh virgin martyr of the 7th century. Winifred’s suitor got angry when she decided to become a nun and cut off her head. A similar arc in the movie.

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