"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.