Terrence Malick is a film maker whose work I’m pretty unfamiliar with. The only film of his that I have seen previously is ‘The Tree of Life’. I remember finding it odd more than anything else, this was a few years ago now too so I’d need a revisit to comment fully on it. Anyway, with Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett both starring here I was never not going to check out ‘Knight of Cups’. So it’s very much due to their casting that my exposure to Malick as a director and writer has increased.
I think I just have to make this clear from the get go, this film is artsy. Much like ‘The Tree of Life’ it could simply be described as a large collection of scenes thrown together tied very loosely by some central characters and a vague narrative. I can really see people hating this film. The lack of a familiar structure certainly has the potential to frustrate audiences and the fact that they are also left to fill in the blanks on many occasions only adds fuel to the fire. There is no real rise or fall to the film either, it’s extremely consistent in its tone and atmosphere meaning that I could understand if people struggle to stay on board with it. At times it felt like Malick made this film just for himself rather than to be shared with the world. It has that personal feel to it, a feel that only someone who has prior knowledge of characters and events will truly be able to understand it. Aside from this it could be said that the director has simply traveled to different locations filming Christian Bale looking at things. After this a few days in the editing suite, some narration thrown over the top and just like that you’ve got ‘Knight of Cups’. This should have been a dull and boring film, somehow though, for me at least, it wasn’t.
The film is a collection of many, many scenes edited together and I think it was this wide variety of landscapes, locations and settings that intrigued me. I found that in every scene or shot there was just so much to take in. Props has to be given to the editing team here as they somehow nailed the length of shots, just as I was beginning to become satisfied with having exhausted the contents of a shot it would cut to the next one. Sometimes it would cut before the audience has a chance to explore everything on screen but you don’t have time to become irritated about this as the film has already presented another scenario for your eyes and ears to explore. The sound was done very well too, whether this was narration mixed in with scenes not necessarily matching up or just the music featured it always connected well together. I really enjoyed the recurring theme used throughout, if my ears were correct it was mainly strings and clarinet based and it was always a welcome companion to the unfolding scenes. The performances also connected to the film well, they aren’t the kind that can be evaluated as they normally would be. However, I thought that everyone who featured seemed very natural in their scenes and blended well with the film. Although I got the impression that this wasn’t really ever about performances but more about imagery, cinematography and editing.
Whilst I will completely understand the critics of this film and recognise that it isn’t a film for the masses in anyway, ‘Knight of Cups’ had a strangely hypnotic effect on me. I’d love to sit down with Malick and ask him about all the shots in the film, if they have any relevance or if they were just there to contribute to the narrative in some way. As I doubt this will ever happen, I’ll have to be content with letting my eyes and ears explore these on screen moments and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed doing so for the two hour running time. I’m not sure if I’ll ever watch the film again but I’m glad I saw it and it’s clear that great care has been taken to produce this film. It’s kind of one to get lost in.
Rating – 6.5/10
Question: Have you ever seen a Terrence Malick film before, if so, what did you think?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
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