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The deserved winner of a BAFTA award, this 2002 animated short is shamefully unavailable on DVD or video, and has been screened only twice on British television. Those who watched and recorded it at the time can tell you how remarkable a piece of work this is.
'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' has been one of the the greatest iconic English Christmas fables since its appearance as a narrative poem more than six hundred years ago. This animated adaptation taps beautifully into that medieval heritage by framing its images in the style of stained glass illuminations. The effect transports you into a world of medieval myth and fable, as if you were observing narrative tableau on the ancient windows of a Gothic cathedral. Rarely in the world of animated film have reds, greens and blues looked so lush, bright and expressionistic.
This classic fable of the winter solstice tells the tale of Gawain's epic journey across a bleak winter landscape, his trial of virtue, and his duel with his mysterious supernatural adversary amidst the frosts and snows of the waning year. All of this is brilliantly realised in just twenty five minutes of screen time. A text-book example of how to put together an adaptation, and how to tell an epic story through coloured images and sound.
The film was made in Ireland, with funding from the Welsh television channel S4C, and with a British voice cast (including a young James D'Arcy as Gawain, and Anton Lesser as the Green Knight). A great example of the possibilities of animated co-production, and made with very evident love and commitment by all concerned.
'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' deserves to be hailed as an animated classic. However, the lack of regular screenings and its ongoing lack of availability on DVD mean that hardly anyone has had the opportunity to view it. If you are lucky enough to get hold of a copy, pass it around and show it to all your friends. It should be made compulsory viewing during the festive season (especially to children!).
Spectacular to look at, evocative, moving, dream-like, eerily unsettling (in the best possible way), and beautiful from start to finish. Absolutely recommended.
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