If you’re not a fan of Terrence Malick’s ethereal style of filmmaking then 2015’s Knight Of Cups isn’t for you. Malick once again eschews a traditional plot and narrative, flitting between disconnected voice-overs and dreamlike imagery. Malick’s visuals merge nature and architecture as we follow Christian Bale’s Rick, a screenwriter in an emotional free-fall wallowing through every excess that Los Angeles has to offer.
It wouldn’t be a Terrence Malick film if it didn’t have an impressive cast and Knight Of Cups (the title comes from a Tarot card) sees Bale joined by yet another starry line-up that gets the trademark ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ Malick treatment. Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Antonio Banderas, Jason Clarke, Brian Dennehy, Wes Bentley, Joel Kinnaman, Imogen Poots, Freida Pinto are several of the big names, with a variety of limited screen-time.
Like all Malick movies, Knight Of Cups is light on plot. Malick’s films always tend to be more about a concept than a story and while he may shoot the film in a more traditional fashion, he cuts the film into what can only be described as cinematic poetry. Many will argue that Knight Of Cups plays like a two hour perfume commercial, flitting between one impressive shot to another, however what Malick achieves is a strange spiritual piece of art that somehow seeps into the soul. The central crux of Knight Of Cups is how Christian Bales Rick is disconnected from his life, embracing the superficiality of LA – we catch glimpses of this excess and also view his relationship with his father and brother (Dennehy and Bently) and many of the women in his life (Blanchett, Portman, Poots, Pinto and Isabel Lucas).
Some might feel that it’s difficult to feel any empathy for a man with so many first world problems and admittedly, Knight Of Cups feels like Malick may have watched all seven seasons of Californication and decided he wanted to remake them as a two hour art film. However, you can’t fault Terrence Malick’s skill at making this form of non-traditional film. It’s not one of Malick’s masterpieces and it is perhaps his least engaging work – but it is still a powerful and immersive piece of filmmaking.