- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
The sweeping visuals in A24’s The Green Knight — the David Lowery-helmed epic based on the Arthurian legend that follows King Arthur’s nephew Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) in a quest to confront the titular knight — were filmed at locations, largely in Ireland’s County Wicklow, outside Dublin.
“It had this really lush green and all kinds of sparse landscapes, lots of grays and these open skies, and it felt cold and wintry. Since it’s [set around Christmas], we really wanted it to feel cold,” says production designer Jade Healy of the locations, which DP Andrew Droz Palermo used to great effect. Both have already earned honors from various critic groups for their work.
For the exterior of Camelot, the production used Cahir Castle in County Tipperary, a stone fortress built in 1142 by Conor O’Brien, Prince of Thomond, which was also used in John Boorman’s King Arthur tale Excalibur (1981) and Stanley Kubrick’s 18th century-set drama Barry Lyndon (1975). The Great Hall interior was a set that took inspiration from Romanesque architecture and in particular the Thoronet Abbey in France, which was built during the late 12th century and early 13th century. “The purity and simplicity of the internal space [in the abbey] was so attractive to me,” says Healy.
The next step, she explains, was “figuring out how to make it fit within our stage space, because we didn’t have a huge stage and we didn’t have [a VFX budget to extend out from partial sets]. So we knew going into it that we wanted to shoot and build the entire thing, ceiling and all.”
She chose to construct the set around the Round Table, which was built as more of a C-shape “to allow for the action [when the Green Knight arrives], but also because the idea of a closed, solid round table just wasn’t interesting. It just didn’t visually appeal to me. I liked this idea of the space that had an opening for you to be able to walk into.”
Of the approach to the cinematography, Palermo recalls that “initially David pitched the movie as an epic journey, but he also wanted it to be as artistic and as personal as [their approach to A Ghost Story, on which Healy also worked].” Adding that Lowery additionally wanted the film to be immersive with a sense of depth, he says, “that kind of pushed the camera language to [using] really wide-angle lenses, really feeling these vast landscapes, but not being afraid to get very close to our subjects with these wide-angle lenses so that they feel large and dynamic within a frame. But it was important for us, for his journey, that we don’t lose the sense of the environment.” The Green Knight was lensed with ARRI’s large format Alexa 65 cameras.
“As far as color, we both really wanted to make a very modern film, and for it to have some snap and some pop to it,” adds Palermo. “We were both fearful to go down the path that so many have gone down before us, where these films can be really kind of grainy and gritty and desaturated. I think that look can be great, but it’s just not something that interested us for this piece, and we wanted to be more expressive with our color.”
For composition, he took inspiration from painters such as Caspar David Friedrich and movies including Czech director Frantisek Vlácil’s Valley of the Bees and Soviet director Sergei Parajanov’s The Color of Pomegranates.
Palermo adds that among his favorite sequences is the scene outside Saint Winifred’s cottage in which Sir Gawain meets a ghostly woman — more specifically, “the way the fingers of the trees kind of reach out as they exit the cottage and it’s catching the light that I have up on big cranes, way out of frame, and the way the fog held in the air that night, which [also] helped catch the light as they’re standing before the pond.”
He also cites a portion of the final scene between Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, “[when] there’s 20 years flashing before [Gawain’s] eyes — something like 10 shots or 15 shots, and how much of that is done wordlessly. I feel so proud that the imagery tells the story so well.”
This story first appeared in a January stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day