His newest outing The Knight of Cups stars Christian Bale as Rick, a comedy writer living in LA. It’s a slightly incongruous career allocation given that he rarely cracks a smile, let alone a joke. Instead, he spends the film’s 118 minute duration overcome by existential angst, from which he finds only the most occasional of reprieves. He wonders blankly around a garden party, stumbles across vast landscapes, and finds himself embroiled in a string of relationships. How does any of this add up, he wonders? So too do we.
Fans of Malick’s most recent films Tree of Life and To the Wonder will recognise the style; minimal dialogue, check; dreamlike cuts, check; ruminative narration, check. The director also makes an elaborate play with the tarot deck. The film itself is named for a card designating both romance and recklessness, and each section of the film (bar one) named for a trump. Add to this learned quotation from the likes of Bunyan and Suhrawardi, and you have a characteristically intellectual set-up. It’s unfortunate, then, that the film strays so readily into platitude; for all the hushed voiceovers about the journey from darkness into light, it’s too rarely illuminating.
More irksome still is the film’s tendency to treat its female characters as foils to Rick’s existential musings. Cate Blanchett’s Nancy is the exception here; she shines as Rick’s ex-wife, offering what is surely the movie’s finest performance, far more laden with pathos than Bale’s lead.
This may not be Malick’s finest hour, but even so, it has its moments. Emmanuelle Lubezki wields the camera with real mastery. A sojourn to Las Vegas proves especially memorable, the lens delighting in the gaudy neoclassical scene, aware of the fine line between the grandiose and the tacky. Still, with little substance to weigh it down, Knight of Cups gets lost in the ether.
|What||Knight of Cups film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
06 May 16 – 08 Jul 16, Event times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here to visit the film's IMDB page|