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Knight of Cups - Film Review

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by DAVID CHAMBERS (subscribe)
Published November 3rd 2015
Got any empathy for "The Knight of Cups" by Terrance Malick?
Coming to Luna Palace Cinemas on November 12th is Terrence Malick's new film "The Knight of Cups". The film premiered at the 65th Berlinale in February this year and has received mixed reviews. Having read a few of the reviews, my advice is to ignore the critics, open your mind to this film, and make your own decisions. If this is your first Malick film, expect to see something very different from your normal Hollywood, produced for the masses, blockbuster. Malick is anything but a conventional storyteller.
Knight, Cups, Christian, Bale, Terrance, Malick
Luna Palace Cinema's in Leederville, November 12th

The brief written description of the film seems to be a deficient in describing the content. The power of the film cannot really be captured in words. Each scene plays out like a physically tactile visual memory overlaid by music that expresses the dominant emotions. Physical contact, gestures, expressions, light and colour are empathised over conventional theatrical dialogue. The emotional dynamics are expressed visually at the expense of getting to know the characters by their spoken exchanges.
Knight, Cups, Christian, Bale, Terrance, Malick
Life imitates art as Christian Bale attends the Berlinale Premiere of the Terrance Malick film 'The Knight of Cups' /

Each film critic I have read presents a slightly different opinion and perspective on what the film is about. I think the film is about you. It's about the things that you personally identify with deep inside yourself. What you bring with you into the theatre, and the demons within you that are invoked and exposed during the 118 minutes of the film. Are you one who is attracted by the lavish LA party lifestyle of the rich and famous, the promise of sexual titillation, excessive sensory stimulation, and the "Love Experience"? Then you might leave the film with the impression that protagonist Rick (Christian Bale), an angst-ridden Los Angeles Screenwriter, seems to have it all. Are you like Rick already a slave to the Hollywood system? Perhaps not as an active participant but in your movie viewing tastes.

Malick asks us to view Rick as a man undergoing profound existential torment. A handsome and rich young man, living the Hollywood life of repetitive partying to the point of tedium, pillow fights with skimpy lingerie models, long walks on the beach and frequent aquatic romps in his designer Armani suit, as well as a continuous stream of romantic encounters with exceptionally beautiful women played by Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Freida Pinto, Isabel Lucas, Teresa Palmer, and Imogen Poots. Is Malick serious? Are we supposed to buy into this? There are many kinds of suffering in this world and the most diabolical is the suffering that blinds us to the reality of our own lives. The suffering that blinds us to the Gods we worship and the masters that we serve and leaves us unaware of our own enslavement, as if in a dream. The film subtly asks our spirit to awaken and confront our own reality as we follow the real spiritual emptiness of Rick's life. Mark 8:36: For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Is the suffering of the lost souls of Hollywood who serve and seek the darkness any less deserving of our compassion than the poor, the starving and the sick who know and seek the light?
Knight, Cups, Christian, Bale, Terrance, Malick
Bale destroys another Armani Suit in a beach romp with Natalie Portman. / Melinda Sue Gordon © Dogwood Pictures /

"Once there was a young prince whose father, the king of the East, sent him down into Egypt to find a pearl…" Rick muses in a breezy monotonic narration, "Where did I go wrong? I can't remember the man I wanted to be." Perhaps the real torment is reserved for those of us who dare the attempt to infer deep philosophical truth behind Malick's latest work. The gliding camera leads us on a search for meaning that never really arrives. We are drawn by the symphonic imagery into an expectation that a deep philosophical truth is just about to be revealed, only to be left in a barren landscape, a wilderness of philosophical contemplation. You leave with nothing more than you came with except perhaps an awareness of some unexpected things that you brought into the theater with you.

The "Knight of Cups" refers to the Tarot card depicting the artist and romantic adventurer, a person that is easily bored and requires continual external experiences and stimulation, a romantic seeker ruled by his emotions rather than logic. The film is broken into chapters named after tarot cards, such as "The Moon," "The Hanged Man" "The High Priestess" ect… sprinkled with occult references and imagery that will feed the You-Tube religious prophet/conspiracy theorist for quite a while. The film is predominantly dark thematically with vague mention of seeking the light that is represented by imagery and the ageless beauty of natural landscapes.

If you are already in relative peace with your spirit, clear of personal demons, awake to the dark forces enslaving Hollywood, and don't have much compassion for the suffering and lost screenwriters/directors; just sit back and enjoy the dreamlike quality and cinematic beauty of the contrasting visual imagery of natural landscapes and stark LA architecture. Expect to be asleep within the first 15 minutes unless you bring a tormented friend/priest/exorcist along for the ride.

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Why? Rick is a slave to the Hollywood system. He is addicted to success but simultaneously despairs at the emptiness of his life. He is at home in a world of illusions but seeks real life. Like the tarot card of the title, Rick is easily bored and needs o
When: November 12th
Phone: (08) 9444 4056.
Where: Luna Cinemas Leederville
Cost: $11:50
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