Slightly off the beaten path of mainstream cinema, there exists a sort of haven for filmmakers who do not make films for the expensive coupe they had their eye on.
Instead, the place breeds some of the most artistically beautiful pieces in the history of the moving picture. Among this community, “Knight of Cups” director and writer Terrence Malick (“Badlands,” “The Thin Red Line”) is an outright legend. His inimitably unique style of filmmaking has baffled and inspired movie buffs since his 1973 debut, but he has drifted far into experimental territory with his newest release.
“Knight of Cups” follows a Hollywood writer (Christian Bale, “The Dark Knight”) as he delves into a string of flashbacks detailing past relationships. From a failed marriage with Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”) to a scandalous affair with Natalie Portman (“V for Vendetta”), Bale’s character has special interactions with every member of the film’s quite incredible cast. This summary may seem sparse and vague, but only because that is exactly what the film is like: a spectacular array of cinematography surrounds the cryptic journey of a confused man, wandering a sort of stream of consciousness poem.
In Technique’s chat with three of the producers, Sarah Green (“The Tree of Life”) describes the film and the process of creating it alongside Malick an organic experience that invokes ponderings on “the meaning of life.” She, along with producers Nicolas Gonda (“The Tree of Life”) and Ken Kao (“Rampart”), are careful not to explain too much of their ideas of the purpose of the film since it is truly an individual experience.
Each viewer will take away a unique interpretation, illustrating the zest of Malick’s cinematic mastery. He contorts the entire concept of storytelling with his freeform and abstract style. Nicolas Gonda likens the creative process to “watching a ballet” — a meticulous display of beauty, like the movie, which seems to have a graceful flow through the memories of its peculiar protagonist.
Conversely, the movie “Knight of Cups” can be seen to be abstruse even to the experienced moviegoer. Malick’s experimental writing and production contribute to the film’s cinematic elegance — an element that, while beautiful, can create an enigmatic, convoluted experience.
In fact, a factor for his new levels of variety is Malick’s use of new and novel technologies. Gonda notes that he has begun using new filming mediums, including GoPro and Phantom camera shots, partially departing from his beloved exclusively film camera movies.
Film fans looking for an easy to watch, light comedy or typical high octane thriller will absolutely despise “Knight of Cups,” but with an abundance of patience and a willing, introspective demeanor will find it rewarding.
This arcane journey into the past incites a viewer’s own psyche, awakening doubts, truths and things forgotten, jarring the rut of “daily routine” — an essential inspiration for the film according to Gonda.
Terrence Malick’s most recent creation will not make many waves. It simply doesn’t have the glamor to crack into the mainstream like some eccentric films do, but that is not its intended purpose nor its place.
“Knight of Cups” grinds against the grain of conventional modern film. Its special cast and fantastic talents behind the camera make it an abnormal and intriguing two hours of deep thought.