Dream-logic is an appealing subject for films, it is an effective medium to capture the ideas that our subconscious creates almost every night. The challenge lies in making these random thoughts into a meaningful narrative while still retaining that improvised charm. In 2015, famed director Terrence Malick gathered a plethora of talent, a hidden script and merged into an impressive journey of ideas and visuals, in Knight of Cups.
We follow Rick, who is a successful Hollywood writer but is unsatisfied with his lot in life, he has become consumed in the superfluous storm of drugs, parties, women, and plenty of each. The film follows his interactions with Eight people, that vary from one to the other, each signified with a title of a tarot card. Though a plot summary of films like this feels unnecessary as the odyssey he embarks feels like it should be experienced without a roadmap nor any preconceived notions.
The film has a dreamy free flow form, helped by the highly improvisational tone of the dialogue, and a lot of the actions the characters perform. The cast of characters is typical of what you would expect in the hot spots of L.A. yet have a heightened feel (probably reflective of how Rick sees them, though not cartoonish enough to come off as caricatures.) There are some big names here, depicting these characters, alongside our protagonist Rick, played by Christian Bale. We have Antonio Banderas who is good as this extravagant playboy hosting lavish parties, whereas the likes of Natalie Portman take Rick to the beach and many more in between. These names are just some of the stars that Terrence Malick has included in this journey, who all feel committed to the project as much as Malick is.
As a film, it can be approached as a collage of interesting shots, intriguing conversations, based on famous books, there is a lot of narration that serves well as a framing device, as the scenes are relatively free-form. The Camerawork also helps and results in a collage that could be described as gorgeous. Some may find this off-putting and dense, but if you give it a shot and keep an open mind, it is an experience you can take a lot from, like most good pieces of art.
As this is my Terrence Malick debut, I am not sure if this experience is natural with all his films, the high expectations I had going in were met. Yet don’t take my word for it, as it is one of the films that inspire a collection of interpretation and reactions, and if it sounds remotely like your sort of thing then Knight of Cups has a lot of exquisiteness in its cards.
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