Knight of Cups, film review: ‘How did Terrence Malick end up making this drivel?’

Natalie Portman and Christian Bale star in Knight of Cups. Picture: Melinda Sue Gordon

Natalie Portman and Christian Bale star in Knight of Cups. Picture: Melinda Sue Gordon - Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon

A Knight of Cups, who needs one?

Especially as, this being a Terrence Malick film, it’s going to be a Long Knight of the Cups – a long, aimless, unbearably precious, two hours of Christian Bale looking at stuff, wistfully.

Or the back of his head walking towards something, possibly the sea. Or falling in and out of love with very beautiful, quite tall, but always very thin, women, in sleek, empty, modern rooms.

It’s like an epic perfume advert that has forgotten what the product is.

Bale is a disenchanted Hollywood scriptwriter, looking to heal his wounds: the ex-wife (Blanchett), the fractious family relationships, the vacuous Hollywood parties.

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His life is desolate, but aspirationally desolate.

Sure, you’ve got problems – but not like these beautiful people have problems.

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They’re so desolate they can’t even express it with their mouths; everybody communicates through poetic voiceovers that entwine into a single stream-of-conscious banality - many voices but with the same pretentiousness.

There are a few homeless people and burns victims thrown into the mix, to show Malick’s inclusivity, but the poor don’t get to have their own voiceover.

Malick’s films have explored history and the universe; he has shot miles and miles of film, used every other star in Hollywood, and spent years editing his footage trying to locate his pearl of wisdom.

He was never much of a story-teller but since Tree of Life, he has abandoned even the pretence of a plot in favour of a floaty, eavesdropping style – hints and slithers of events flowing past us in a beautiful blur.

How did a maker of great film end up making this drivel?

Malick seems to be the proof of my mother’s chastisement that “you can be too clever”.

He is the wise man who thought so hard he became the Fool. A depressing fool at that.

After a life-long search for knowledge and meaning, all he has to show for it is nothing, absolutely nothing.

Rating: 1/5 stars

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