Upcoming Sir Gawain film adaptation tied to UD

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    Photo courtesy of A24 Studios

    On Feb. 13, indie studio A24 released a teaser trailer for “The Green Knight,” an upcoming movie based on the medieval poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” 

    The dark fantasy film, starring Dev Patel as Gawain and Alicia Vikander as the Lady, is set to be released on May 29. 

    The director, David Lowery, has a strong connection to the University of Dallas that goes beyond our Literary Tradition I text.

    David Lowery’s father, Dr. Mark Lowery, taught at UD for 27 years, according to the UD website. 

    “Mark Lowery was a beloved professor of theology and was on the Rome campus for a few semesters,” said Dr. Gregory Roper, associate professor of English, who met with David Lowery to discuss faithfulness to the text of “Sir Gawain.” 

    Starting in 1988, Dr. Lowery served as a professor of moral theology, as well as serving as chair of the theology department.

    Junior Anna Lowery, a double major in German and philosophy, is David Lowery’s sister. 

    “David has set a high standard for himself with his past work, and I’m sure ‘The Green Knight’ will live up to that standard,” she said.

    While Anna Lowery currently attends UD, David Lowery also attended for a few years. “David came to UD a couple of times and kept leaving,” Roper said. “He was my advisee for a time.”

    David Lowery, who attended UD between 2005 and 2007 according to Roper, is an accomplished director and screenwriter. David Lowery graduated from Irving High School and has now directed major motion pictures such as “Pete’s Dragon” and “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.” 

    “He’s not an alum, but he’s still one of ours,” Roper said. 

    David Lowery, according to Dr. Roper, took Literary Tradition I with Dr. Scott Crider of the English department. Crider was unavailable for comment.

    For Roper, the development of the movie “The Green Knight” was a dream come true. “For years,” Roper said, “when I used to teach Lit Trad I, I would always say: somebody needs to make a movie out of this thing.”

    “The Gawain Poet’s vision is very cinematic. In the head-chopping scene, for example, the poet seems to move the camera from the hands on the axe, to the axe itself, to the Green Knight’s head dropping,” Roper said.  “[The Poet] moves your eye around the very way a film camera would. He uses almost filmic technique in his description.”

    “After hearing Dr. Roper’s enthusiasm at a movie version, I am excited to see the action scenes from the book like the beheading scenes and the hunting scenes,” said junior English major Isabel Bishop, who studied “Sir Gawain” with Roper in Medieval Literature last fall. “I hope they turn out to be as epic as he described them in class!”

    Bishop was very enthusiastic about the choice of Dev Patel as Sir Gawain, citing his performances in “extreme roles” such as “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Lion.” “In my opinion, he has never given a bad performance and I don’t see why he would start now,” Bishop said.

    “I hope they include the more Christian elements of the story like Gawain’s confession and his guilt over his sins at the end,” she said.

    Ellie Gardiner, a junior English major who also studied “Sir Gawain” with Roper, had some qualms about potential faithfulness to the text. 

    “I’m not sure how I feel about Arthur (Sean Harris) being a much older actor than Dev Patel’s Gawain, especially because Arthur’s ‘boyishness’ is such a significant part of the text,” Gardiner said. “I’m also hoping they don’t forget to complicate the relationship between Gawain and Lady Bertilak — as long as they can get the love game right, I have hope that the other themes of the poem (or at least those of the Bertilak sequence) will follow through.”

    Despite these concerns, however, Gardiner remains optimistic, saying, “I’m excited to see what they make of the story — a close, but refreshing, interpretation would be welcome.”

    “Just based on the trailer, I like that they’re emphasizing the confusion and misty circumstances of the poem — the aesthetic seems to be well researched,” Gardiner said. “By the looks of it, they’re emphasizing the darkness of the poem as well and its place in medieval culture. I’m thinking especially of the puppet show guiding the trailer as the peasant kids watch.”

    When a student told Roper that David Lowery was making the movie, Roper reached out to him to offer advice about faithfulness to the text. 

    ““I emailed [David Lowery] … and asked to get coffee with him,” Dr. Roper said. “I wanted to make sure he doesn’t screw this up. He sent me some things he was thinking about. That was January of 2019, and then he was off to Ireland for filming.”

    Roper truly only spoke with David Lowery about the medieval text of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” with no “spoilers” for the upcoming film.

    “All I’ve seen is the trailer,” Roper said. “I just had coffee with him and we talked about the poem… He’s told me he wants to stay faithful to the poem.”

    Roper and other UD staff are hoping to host a screening event of “The Green Knight” at UD. David Lowery has agreed to such an event and will potentially attend, according to Roper.

    “I am extremely excited for this movie,” said Bishop. “I hope this film turns out well and we can start to have more ‘good’ medieval films.”

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