I saw this movie months ago and enjoyed it as a philosophical exploration of character, as in “this person displayed real character.” Last night I randomly happened upon a youtube interpretation of the movie and it hit me that it seemed to espouse a view of existence with many parallels to the Buddhist description of existence. I rewatched the movie and keeping that person’s interpretation in mind really made me feel that’s more true than I initially thought.
Something this person emphasized that I haven’t seen many reviewers mention is the “Green” in the title and the description of the Green Knight’s ‘personification’ is to do with the relationship between rot and life. Rot is the breeding ground of more life. Life and death are inseparable in that way, let alone in the more obvious requirement of death after life. The main character’s journey is one from someone bullied by their own weaknesses and assumptions about what a “proper” life is, to someone who truly let’s go in what I can’t help but see is extremely analogous to Buddhist “letting go.”
If you haven’t seen it and don’t mind spoilers, the main character aspires to a storybook greatness and legend like the knights of King Arthur’s court (him being a contemporary and relative of Arthur.) He gets himself ensnared in a situation where everybody knows he has to willingly and bravely give his life. He embarks on this quest obviously with the hope and belief that he can “fake” his way to it. At the end of the journey when he seemingly willingly goes to his death after illustrating many times that he’s not actually prepared, at the last moment he cowers away and says this line that has just bounced around my mind all night last night and all day today. “Is this really all there is?” He was so certain that making a show of willingness to give his life is what bravery is that he couldn’t comprehend the Green Knight’s answer. “What else ought there be?”
The obvious answer, and the one he does come to, is that clinging to ideas about righteousness is not righteousness. Actual righteousness and bravery and acceptance of the relationship between the eternal cycle of rot and life, and the inevitable disappearance of all evidence of ourselves except as a breeding ground for the actions and ‘future history’ of others, can only be truly embraced and overcome through letting go. I can’t help but see that the writer is saying that letting go of the self is the only proper way to achieve the ‘goals’ that self claims to seek, i.e. freedom from ignorant compulsion to be what is proper.
I don’t think the writer/director is Buddhist or set out to espouse Buddhist philosophy, but I think in his (what I consider) beautiful attempt at understanding our position, couldn’t help but align with it, just because the Buddha (again in my and probably your opinion) couldn’t help but come to the right conclusion because of the purity of his effort and the ‘breeding ground’ of his person that was his Kamma.
I am far from a literary critic type so I’m sure people more practiced in that can see some issues in how I’m approaching this but I am very curious to hear the thoughts of anybody else who saw this movie and whether you think its statements share any similarities with Buddhism. If you don’t necessarily care to see it but have an opinion on my interpretation of it, I’d like to hear that as well.