Knight of Cups (film)

Knight of Cups (Directed by Terrence Malick)/2015

A wise man once tweeted “I think criticizing Malick’s storytelling is like complaining that his gloves don’t fit our feet”. While I’m certainly not complaining, I did struggle yet again with Malick’s 8th feature film Knight of Cups; my 6th Terrence Malick film. I feel that I am getting closer to understanding his sometimes maligned path to I-don’t-know-where; particularly when I reflect back on my first encounter with Malick via The Tree of Life.

The main story in Knight of Cups is about the life and love of a Hollywood screenwriter Rick, acted by Christian Bale. Despite the appearance of wealth and success, Rick seems lost. His work isn’t turning out that well, and he seems to be drifting from one woman to another. The women seem to have some hope and expectations about their relationship with Rick. However for Rick, as viewers, it all appears a haze: a dreamy sequence from one to the next without purpose or direction.

Weaved through is the story about Rick’s own sense of self and who he is in relation to his family. Rick is troubled by his brother that is a bit down and out, and his angry father who is stricken with grief by the death of his third son. All three of them are knotted together into a tight ball of anger, sadness and loss. There is a scene where the three men all stand around venting emotions at each other. All of them are trapped by their past, and driven by their emotions. They are unable to make meaning of now or the future.

Rick’s situation makes the viewer reflect back to the little story told at the beginning of the film, a story of a little prince that was sent down to the world to find a pearl. Upon arriving, people poured him a cup and after drinking what was in the cup the prince fell into a deep sleep and forgot all about what he was sent to achieve.

I feel that Malick is spiritual, at least in that he believes that there is purpose to human existence and there is cause which creates that purpose. In Knight of Cups he seems to be saying that often we are enveloped in historical relationships and emotions that prevent us from fulfilling our genuine purpose in life. The film also seems to give up on dialogue in favourite of voice overs; this gives the feeling of characters disconnected from each other and entrenched in their own thoughts – thoughts that rarely seems to be upbeat.

The film is visually stunning: the work of the Oscar winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. It really uplifts the aesthetic of the greater LA cityscape. It is an area that is often portrayed quite ugly in its urban decay, a typical example being the film Tangerine; but Lubezki transformed LA into what I can only describe as industrial-chic. The film also shows off some great modern architecture nestled in the hills of Hollywood.

I would say that the film was about 20 minutes too long, After an hour and a half of watching Rick drift about, I thought to myself “what now?” I felt like one of the three men, lost in a meaningless drift. Perhaps that was intentional, and for the point that, I think, the film was raising, there was no solution is to be expected. However I think 2 hours is a little bit too long to merely portray an empty state of being of one man.

Popular posts from this blog

The Nag Hammadi Scriptures (book)

Erving Goffman on Stigma (book)

I See Satan Fall Like Lightning (book)