‘The Green Knight’ | Anatomy of a Scene
“My name is David Lowery, and I adapted and directed The Green Knight. This is a scene in which Sir Gauvain, who is not yet Sir Gauvain – he is not yet a knight – played by Dev Patel, stops to rest in what he thinks is a cottage abandoned in the countryside and discovers that it is inhabited by a spirit named Saint Winifred. Saint Winifred is a true figure in Welsh history and Catholic traditions. She’s a seventh-century martyr who was beheaded by her suitor when he – when she decided to become a nun. And his head was thrown into a spring. But later a saint came and took her head from the spring and joined her to her body, and she came back to life. And since then this spring, known as Holyhead or Holywell in Wales, has been known to have healing powers. And it’s a place you can always go. And people, devotees go there. Tourists go there. It’s open for business. And it is referenced in the original text of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. There is a line that says, he crossed the fords through the forlands to the Holy Head until he again took land in the Wirrel Desert. And that’s just one line from the poem, but the poem itself is deeply rooted in Welsh iconography and geography. And so while researching, I came across the legend of St. Winifred and just couldn’t really – couldn’t resist including it in the movie itself. It was filmed on location not in Wales, but in Ireland. And although we shot it on location, we wanted it to look like an old Hammer horror movie and have that kind of sonic feel. “The.” “What am I looking for?” ” “My head.” “We have found a real chalet. And then Jade Healy, our decorator, made it look as close as possible to the original cottage in St. Winifred in Wales. And then we dug our own well in front, which may or may not still be there. I do not really know. Erin Kellyman plays Winifred, and I first saw her in the Han Solo movie, “Solo Story”. And I just thought she was such a striking presence. And instantly, I knew I wanted to work with her at some point. So when I wrote this film, it came to my mind very quickly for this role. And luckily, she said yes. She is marvellous. “This Lord has sought to sleep with me. I pushed him away, but he came back in the night and broke my door. I tried to run away, but he cut my head off. “We shot it all in one night. And that was one of the few nighttime shoots we’ve had on set and one of those rare occasions when everything goes perfectly. The weather was perfect. It wasn’t too cold. The air was still. The fog hung like this. It was really quite magical. “I just need my head.” “The only ghostly thing here is that we wanted it to be very practical. When she floats to Dev, she’s just standing on a cart. Again, we wanted this whole footage to feel like a very old-fashioned horror movie. What’s going on here with the stakes that Dev is pursuing with this trip, they’re already so high. He is literally heading for his own death. So each of the encounters he has during his trip is more of a boost. The stakes here are not huge. They are much more delicate. And what’s going on here with this conversation with Winifred is that it pushes him towards integrity, decency, and chivalry. And we’re using the context of the legend of Winifred to kind of shed some light on where our version of Gwain needs to go. This sequence was inspired by the TV movie, Ewoks’ Caravan of Courage, in which a character is sucked into a magical pond. It terrified me when I was a kid, and that’s directly what it’s taken from. We originally planned for a much larger underwater sequence, but now I know it takes a lot more than half a day to shoot something underwater. And so I think what you see here is pretty much all of the usable footage that we combined with some miniature work that we shot in Texas. And the miniature was built by David Pink, who wore the ghost costume in “A Ghost Story” when Casey was not available. And the cosmic stuff you see here, we really wanted — when Dev comes out of that pond, we wanted his worldview to change. Every encounter he has in this film changes him and brings him closer to death. And so here it touches the cosmic. And if the star effects seem a bit wobbly, it’s because I created them myself using YouTube tutorials.
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