Beautifully filmed by Emmanuel Lubezki, Terrence Malick’s latest production falls short of his previous work, which I always enjoyed. However, this production seems to be going over similar material as before, with even less plot to carry the viewer along. Knight of Cups starts with a tale about a prince charged by his father with finding a pearl, but the son goes after the party life, forgetting all about the stone. The king does not forget, and sends repeated messages to his son as reminders. Finally, an earthquake catches his attention.
We’re then introduced to Rick (Bale), a melancholy figure who appears to be working through his tumultuous relationships with his father (Dennehy) and brother (Bentley) and tracing the paths he took with the four women in his life (Blanchett, Pinto, Portman, and Poots). Regret is a salient emotion marking his memories of all.
His thoughts are marked by the rueful as well. “Pieces of your life never come together; that’s damnation.” “Dreams are nice, but you can’t live in them.” “So much I was given; so much I left behind.” “I spent 30 years not living life; I couldn’t remember the man I wanted to be.”
The end contains short admonitions that seem to come from father to son. “Love’s so rare that when you find it, don’t let it go.” “Pay attention to this moment; everything is there, perfect and complete just as it is.”
The characters don’t speak much in real conversation—we mostly hear voiced thoughts—so most of what they convey is in their movements. The film is divided into sections that represent Tarot cards, i.e., The Hermit, The Hanged Man, The Tower, The High Priestess, Death, etc. A closer viewing of the film might shed some light on the metaphorical meaning of each section.
Much of the entertainment/enjoyment of the film will be derived from Lubezki’s cinematography, although Jungian scholars will no doubt understand the archetypes best, and derive more meaning from Malick’s work.
Obscure meanings, but Lubezki’s sumptuous cinematography compensates.
Grade: C By Donna R. Copeland