Hi everyone, Bryan Here…
There are two types of people in this world. Those who love Terrence Malick films and those who don’t. I tend to be the former in all aspects, from his films ‘Days of Heaven‘, ‘Badlands‘, and ‘The Thin Red Line‘. Recently, Malick has become more experimental with his filmmaking, with the amazing ‘Tree of Life‘ and ‘To the Wonder‘. Malick hasn’t been telling traditional narratives in a sense of the standard Hollywood formula, but rather has told a story with very little dialogue exchanged between characters as they walk through cityscapes and nature with a narrator voice over, detailing a stream of consciousness.
It’s definitely not for everyone or maybe even the modern day movie-goer who prefers to be told what to think about a movie. Neither way is bad and I rather enjoy both methods, but there is not a single filmmaker out their today who is creating art and film like Terrence Malick is, or at least on the same spectrum as he is. Malick gives us a lot of room to think and feel what the characters might be going through and while his latest film ‘Knight of Cups‘ may not show the key moments of life in a scientific or religious aspect like ‘Tree of Life‘ did, it still covers quite a bit of major themes with family life, sex, a middle-aged crisis, turmoil in a father-son relationship, and suicide. The film, like ‘Tree of Life‘ is a visual one first, conveying the story through beautiful visuals of characters walking thru the luscious landscapes of the top Hollywood Elite homes as well as nature by the beach and ocean and even in a dessert, which is made to tell us how there are always two opposite sides to every situation.
‘Knight of Cups’, which refers to the Tarot Cards realm is told in several chapters, all with titles of certain Tarot cards as the Malick’s camera follows a man named Rick (Christian Bale), who after we see shots of nature and even outer-space, get a vague glimpse that Rick might be involved in some big creative capacity in the film business. Rick wakes up to an earthquake in his Los Angeles condo as everything is shattering around him (symbolism on the nose). We then are taken by his side as he goes on a journey thru Hollywood, encountering those odd and awkward moments with the people he may or may not love, including a bunch of different women, his father and brother, and even a big, lavish Hollywood party with enough cameos to fill three films.
As we see Rick’s many escapades with women, which include some sex, playing around, and emotional conversations, we get a vague notion that Rick isn’t all too happy with himself. He seems to enjoy the young Imogen Poots as they frolic on the backlot of a major Hollywood studio, as she tells him that they are meant for something bigger and better. Then there is his ex-wife (Cate Blanchett), a young woman he might have gotten pregnant (Natalie Portman), a beautiful model (Freida Pinto), and a pretty hippie chick (Teresa Palmer) – all who give some perspective into Rick’s emotional well-being. Rick really never shows any emotion though, as he seems to be stuck in some sort of limbo of emotion and love.
This might be brought on by his father (Brian Dennehy) who is seen constantly yelling and telling Rick the sadder moments in life. In addition to that, Rick’s brother (Wes Bentley) can’t seem to come to grips with their late brother’s suicide and is the volatile one of the group. With all of these of what seem like distant or even very recent memories, Malick tries to paint a picture of Rick recalling these particular moments of love and hate in his life as he walks slowly and aimlessly through the baron wasteland that what has become of his life. The only problem here is that it doesn’t seem to go anywhere, have any payoff, or even finish with a conclusion, which could have delivered some sort of psychological meaning. It never did. Instead, Malick just wanted to show this stream of inner thoughts of a guy, trying to figure out the missing love in his life, without really knowing who Rick is.
That all being said, Malick and his long time director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki have still managed to make some of the best looking movies to date, showcasing tons of beautiful locations on the West Coast. ‘Knight of Cups‘ isn’t for everyone, but it sure strikes a chord for fans of Malick, leaving this experimental film Recommended!
– Bryan Kluger