WARNING: Spoilers for The Green Knight ahead.
The Green Knight director David Lowery recently defended the movie’s ending after many viewers were left wondering about the true fate of its protagonist. The A24 film was released in the U.S. on July 30th after its original March 2020 premiere date was pushed back due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It stars Dev Patel in a reimagined telling of the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” an Arthurian legend penned anonymously in the 14th century.
The Green Knight follows Sir Gawain, a nephew of King Arthur. When attending a Christmas feast at the court of Camelot, Gawain accepts a challenge from the mysterious Green Knight, a powerful creature summoned by his mother, Morgan Le Fay (Sarita Choudhury). After playing the knight’s game and beheading, but not killing him, Gawain must journey to the Green Chapel to come face-to-face with his destiny—death. Upon reaching the chapel, Gawain is told to bow his head for the Green Knight’s ax, just as Gawain had defeated him a year prior. Audiences see a scenario play out: one where Gawain keeps an enchanted girdle belt tied around his waist to cheat death. However, after he reflects and comes to terms with his inevitable mortality, Gawain ends up removing the girdle, accepting his fate. But before audiences can be sure of anything, the screen fades to black, leaving viewers wondering: did he live? Did he die?
In a recent AMA session on Reddit, Lowery defended The Green Knight‘s ending by stating that it’s not as ambiguous as some viewers think. The writer/director told a Reddit user that the ending was intended to be looked at beyond the surface level, just as it was written in the script. Lowery’s full quote can be read below:
“It’s not ambiguous so much as it’s a little bit beneath the surface, ready to be drawn up. It ends exactly as it was scripted.”
The Green Knight packs a punch, and it definitely doesn’t spoon-feed its viewers. It’s a carefully crafted film heavy on using symbolism and stylized editing that makes for some stunning visual storytelling. But despite its impressive sets, costumes, and expansive world building, Lowery’s vision relies heavily on silence and minimalism, preferring audiences to pick up on visual cues as a means of telling Gawain’s story in favor of heavy dialogue. This type of offbeat filmmaking isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and especially puzzled people with its understated ending. Regardless of how some people may have thought about the ending, The Green Knight earned rave reviews from critics following its US premiere on July 30th, and performed better at the box office than expected.
A24 has yet to announce plans for a sequel, but based off audience reactions and its box office performance alone, it has the potential to be a big hit for the studio. The Green Knight 2 could play around with other Arthurian stories, or continue Gawain’s story—if he survived his encounter with the Green Knight. While the ending of The Green Knight might border on ambiguity to some viewers, one thing’s for sure: Lowery has established himself as a truly unique voice in Hollywood, and it will be interesting to see if any future tales of knights and kings lie ahead for the director.