When the release of A24’s The Green Knight was delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, director David Lowery used the time to recut the film to better suit his own vision, now the director has detailed the changes he made during this time. The Green Knight is a dark reimagining of the 12th century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, one of the more famous Arthurian legends. The film follows Dev Patel’s Gawain as he journeys out to confront the titular Green Knight in order to prove himself to his uncle King Arthur.
Originally scheduled to premiere at South By Southwest film festival in March of 2020 with its release set for the following May, The Green Knight finally premiered on July 30th – although not without its UK release being pulled over alleged concerns over the rise in Coronavirus cases. The time Lowery spent editing the film seem to have aided it greatly as The Green Knight opened to critical acclaim, with critics praising its mesmerising visuals and atmosphere as well as Patel’s central performance. It also proved more successful at the box-office earning $6.8 million in its opening weekend, a small amount compared to pre-pandemic standards but a decent turn for an indie-film during the current climate.
Taking to Reddit for an Ask Me Anything, Lowery was inevitably asked if any substantial changes were made between the original cut of The Green Knight and its final theatrical cut. Lowery explained that the changes he made were in fact ” more a question of pace and less of content”, having initially convinced himself that the film needed to be less than two hours in length. He also expanded Alicia Vikander’s role in the film. The director added that despite the pacing changes, some scenes never changed including the “long shot of Gawain riding away from the castle” and the final 25 minute. You can read Lowery’s full statement below:
It was more a question of pace and less of content. I had cut the film too quickly initially. In returning to it, I let it breathe more and included more of the world. It was still deliberate, but I let myself get impatient early on and kept cutting things short. I was convinced it needed to be less than two hours for some arbitrary reason. Thankfully I came to my senses. That long shot of Gawain riding away from the castle never changed though! And the last 25 minutes of the movie never changed from the first assembly onward. It was really the second reel, the Too-Quick Year, that changed a lot. I slowed that down. And fine tuned everything else. I removed one scene (my favorite, alas!) and added back a few beats with Alicia [Vikander] that I had removed for some crazy reason.
Before release, it was known that Lowery’s edits would offer Alicia Vikander greater screen-time, but it’s interesting to hear what did and did not change between cuts, and also that one of his favourite scenes didn’t make the final cut. Lowery is known for his slower and more thoughtful style of filmmaking, having previously directed the likes of A Ghost Story and The Old Man and the Gun. It makes sense then that he would want his take on the Arthurian legend to fit that style, especially insofar as the film focuses on Gawain’s own personal growth and development as much as his actual quest. This more methodical approach also allowed the director to better lean into the psychological horror elements, better distinguishing the film from similar films based on Arthurian legends which often strive to make the stories appeal to a mainstream audience.
Lowery has previously stated that while he doesn’t think that the earlier version was bad, simply a lesser version, and also that the time spent re-cutting allowed him to reconcile his experiences on The Green Knight. This certainly fits with the director’s realisation that he didn’t need to rush the film. These pacing changes certainly seem to have aided the film as well, particularly in relation its thoughtfulness and emphasis on horror and Gawain’s place in the world. Hopefully Lowery will bring this same level of patience and thoughtfulness evidenced in The Green Knight to his adaptation of Peter Pan when it releases next year.
Source: David Lowery / Reddit