Before I start. Watch it. It's a master piece. If you don't like it, well, you're wrong. But in all seriousness, give it a watch and see if you enjoy it. There's a lot to gain within the abstract vernacular that the film presents.
To summarise the film plot as quickly as possible, the film embraces the viewer into the world of Rick (Christian Bale), who comes across as some form of hollywood producer/art director/script writer (the plot is somewhat open to this). We follow him through a series of relationships and adventures through a landscape going through a clear disequilibrium, a great unbalance of emotions and thoughts, actions, past mistakes and more.
Knight of Cups focuses on the thematic of self identification and the uncertainty yet predictability of life, in addition to the motives and meaning of life, in a individual context as well as a sociological one.
Now that we have some understanding of this MASTERPIECE, let's delve into my reasons as to why I believe it to be open of the greatest movies of ALL time, if not THE best.
Bold Cinematography and editing
This is a BIG one in my books. The way the camera moves around each scene, the atmosphere it presents, the foreshadowing in addition to the cinematic motifs we are encompassed by as viewers, leaves the audience, questioning, probing, learning and exploring the thematic of self identification and the meaning and motives of our lives (whether in the context of the film or in reality).
The film moves like a literal dream. The shadows, the subtle play on colours, gradients and hues. These are all beautifully photographed by Emmanuel Lubezki.
Cinematography should always invite the viewer in to decipher the script and engage the viewer in rich content that is often time, suggestive within the script also.
For example, in this shot here below, there is an adequate amount of information surrounding the emptiness of our main character. Rick (Christian Bale) is surrounded by beautiful (seemingly nice) people. The interior landscape shots however, portray his inner feelings of emptiness and apathetic view of the immense wealth he is surrounded by. We get this from a fraction of frames of Rick looking somewhat melancholy and two shots of an empty interior, shot like something from a horror movie, but lit like a slightly underexposed modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
I could stay on the topic of cinematography for ever in relation to this film, as its STUNNING and meaningful. However, to keep this review short (or appraisal as opposed to review) i'll move onto the main subject.
Narrative and dialogue
I believe I've touched on this at the beginning of this post, however, a refresh can't hurt. To create a film that deals with a very important thematic that fringes on the dear edge of life, is a bold move considering the often time irreverence that is shown by regular movie goers who have been injected by a hypodermic needle, that is modern Hollywood (bad modern hollywood that is).
The dialogue in this movie is ecstatic. Its alive, every word counts, no fillers. There are so many moments where you see Rick's mouth move and yet, nothing emanates from his mouth, just silence. This presents an ethereal feel to the film and places emphasis on the visuals theirselves as the audience is forced to deduce a great deal of information from the visuals as opposed to dialogue. True cinema.
The film carries through a great deal of whispering for narration purposes. This is done in a original manner as the narration is both non-diegetic as well as diegetic. They are supposedly inward thoughts of characters in addition to a poem being recited as a voiceover by a narrator. These thoughts add a poetic dimension to the film. This may come across as jarring to begin with for many viewers, however, after a scene or two, it becomes a welcoming guide into the film.
There are a numerous amount of women who enter into relationships with Rick. This creates a very rich and hyper saturated experience for the viewer as they are immersed in so many different areas of his life. Every female character seems to carry their own motif too. This adds an elaborate amount of subjective layering to each section/chapter of the film.
Its without a shadow of a doubt that Knight of Cups has an awesome soundtrack. Sound is such an underrated aspect of filmmaking. Sound matters, more than us filmmakers care to think a lot of the time. The score of this movie is wonderful. They don't bring attention to theirselves. They play off in the background, typically not on their own. They seem to be accompanied by ambient sounds to add a layer of naturalism to this film piece.
A link to the entire soundtrack can be found here:
Whilst researching into this film as I was writing this short review/appraisal, I've come to understand how I myself have underrated this film massively in several aspects, especially cinematography (who would have guessed it).
The fact that this film had no script for the cast to follow aside from dialogue cues from Terrence Malik, is mind-blowing. This film was essentially all improv. Thats an insane amount of work and dedication from all corners of this production. This film could have gone anywhere, but it went the direction it went, because it went the direction it went. Tautological.
Knight of Cups is a true homage to not just cinematography, but also an evolutionary step towards the very future finite strands of cinema and film-making itself. A complete refresh of how we ought to see cinema.
Please give it a watch and comment below to tell me your thoughts!