Knight of Cups is the latest offering from filmmaker Terrence Malick, and only his seventh film to date. It follows the journey of Rick (played by Christian Bale), a disillusioned and depressed screenwriter as he searches for love or simply distraction, via his relationship with his family and six different women. Set in the decadent world of LA and Las Vegas, Rick goes about his days in a bored, existential haze, in a quest to find some meaning to his life.
The title of the film refers to the Knight of Cups tarot card, and is a presumably an indication of Rick's personality. In one scene, Rick visits a fortune teller who draws out this card. The Knight of Cups card is an adventurer, romantic and an artist, who seeks creative stimulation and is restless in spirit. The card is said to represent change, struggle and transition and indicates a person who must follow a true path without getting bogged down by materialism.
The film itself is divided into eight sections, with each chapter named after a different tarot card. The narrative is also loosely inspired by and directly quotes the Christian allegory The Pilgrim's Progress and the Hymn of the Pearl passage from the Acts of Thomas. Each chapter of the film is based around Rick's interaction with another character, from his ex-wife Nancy (Cate Blanchett), to a stripper (Teresa Palmer) and a married woman (Natalie Portman).
There are plenty of shots of cold, imposing skyscrapers and apartments juxtaposed with warmer natural scenes of the beach or desert. The broody voiceovers provide constant insight into Rick's musings and thoughts. It's a film that is sure to irritate some, as Rick ponders the meaning of life while rolling around in bed with various women and attending endless parties. Visually beautiful at times and full of gorgeous women, the film certainly lacks a plot in the traditional sense, making it meander on for almost two hours.
It's easy to make the assumption that Knight of Cups is an autobiographical film, and a reflection of the ambivalence Malick himself feels towards the Hollywood circus and the emptiness of success. There seems to be a lot trying to be said in this film, and not always in a subtle way. Among the clichés and ramblings, there may be a deeper meaning behind it all, and like Rick, we're left to question what exactly that might be.