Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick, 2016): USA

Reviewed by Lucas Stark. Viewed at the Arlington Theater, Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2016.

Just as every other review seems to state, I heard a LOT of people exiting the theater complaining about the movie they had just seen, and quite a few for no other reason than it was hard to follow. Not that it was poorly made in any definable way, simply confusing.

Now I’m not sure whether that speaks more to the quality of the movie or the people viewing the film, but I believe they missed quite a lot, both on and off screen. Choices of intentionally beautiful and drawn or composed camera sequences are juxtaposed with very little ‘human’ interaction, more of Christian Bale’s careful exploration of his characters’ motives. The incredibly limited amount of context we receive from the director makes you truly appreciate the few moments of ‘clarity’ received throughout the film, though these could best be described not as clear, merely not intentionally obscured. While in the film’s first arc Christian Bale’s character is searching for his undefined goal, wandering from one fugue state and unclearly purposed destination to another, we as an audience are certainly drawn in by the lack of basic film procedure. The hints at a tortured past, both of Bale’s character and the director Terrence Malik, are increasingly interesting as I contemplate them, and his constant struggle with the women in the film, both in and out of his mind, as they perceive him on a level other characters, and Rick himself cannot, is as well. This makes for an initially esoteric and very ‘defined’ film, that I will continue to enjoy, and attempt to understand.

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