If you're reading No Film School a lot, then you know we love The Green Knight. We spent a lot of time explaining the lore behind the film, and now we're excited to show you a video essay where director David Lowery explains how he directed one of the scenes in the film.
In this episode of Vanity Fair's "Notes on a Scene," Lowery breaks down the scene where Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) meets the Green Knight for the very first time. He explains his vision for the summoning of the Green Knight while King Arthur addresses his court and how he created a looming atmosphere that draws on both historical references and his own inspiration. It's a masterclass on mood, pacing, editing, and lighting.
Let's check it out and talk after.
David Lowery Breaks Down a Scene from The Green Knight
Over the course of the 14-minute video, Lowery is incredibly generous with his process and his explanations. Our scene opens setting up the Arthurian legend. And Lowery says this comes from his childhood and his desire to make a fantasy film. I love the big reveal that there are matte paintings within this movie, including some of the extras. It's such an interesting and unique idea. Both a throwback and an innovative solution.
Lighting this scene was a challenge. You had to seep daylight through windows and through a roof opening, but then also light fires in the background so things didn't get blown out. Models helped them visualize light sources and build in the lighting in advance so they had time to shoot and get the specific angles they would need.
Lowery is always balancing the old and new world here. The paganism of the magic of the Green Knight juxtaposed against the Christianity of the knights.
Changing the script to make Morgan La Fay the mother of Gawain added a dimension to the story that had never existed before. Gawain was the living embodiment of her attachment to the kingdom now, while also being spiritually part of something else. We see religious icons, the traditional establishment versus the natural world. So much storytelling is done with the props and costumes, adding in the rigidity of the kingdom and the wildness of the country.
One of the tips Lowery gives us is to listen to the actors. He talks about how Sean Harris, who plays King Arthur, came up with the idea to walk around the round table, instead of just standing and talking. This really warmed up Arthur's presence and added to the legend of the benevolent king.
Of course, there's a huge tone change when the Green Knight enters. He comes in holding holly over his head, wanting friendship. Originally, they wanted to show the horse, but it wasn't behaving. So they used a fake horse to bob him up and down, until on the second day of shooting a real horse was available.
I also admire how the character of the Green Knight was done with totally practical makeup. This kept everything feeling visceral and tense.
What were your favorite parts of Lowery's breakdown? Let us know in the comments.
Source: Vanity Fair