Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits, continues this week with works featuring Christian Bale.
Knight of Cups (2015)
We are going very recent with this last Christian Bale film for this week’s final Buried Credits, a film that came out just last year in fact, with Knight of Cups, written and directed by Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line, The New World, The Tree of Life). The plot of Knight of Cups is complicated to explain as it’s sectioned off into segments titled after tarot cards, just as the movie is titled after one, and I can assume that the individual segments are possibly based around Malick’s thoughts on what the individual cards mean. The film follows Rick (Christian Bale) as he goes through life and picks specific people and relationships to focus on that are meaningful to him in some way. We have an all star cast here with the likes of Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Blue Jasmine), Natalie Portman (Léon: The Professional, Star Wars: Episodes I-III, V for Vendetta, Black Swan), Antonio Banderas (Desperado, Spy Kids, The Legend of Zorro), Wes Bentley (American Beauty, The Hunger Games, Interstellar), and Imogen Poots (V for Vendetta, Jane Eyre, Green Room) and a few more who all portray these important characters to Rick. Aside from that and a few little plot elements I picked up here and there, there’s not much more I can say.
I’ve only seen one Terrence Malick film prior to this, The Tree of Life, but I still knew what I was getting myself into. Malick made this film incredibly artistic, visually beautiful and unique, and ridiculously hard to understand. The plot of the film itself is thin, a character and important moments to him, but what this film falls victim to is the overabundance of “show not tell.” Showing and not telling is great, but when you tell so little and the entire movie is just people existing and rarely saying words it becomes hard to follow and appreciate the narrative that is going on. It also doesn’t help that quite often anyone in the movie starts talking, they are interrupted by a a voice over of either themselves or another character, and usually it’s to stop informing us about the plot and instead about how the character is feeling at the moment.
Knight of Cups seems to follow the pattern of Rick likes women, but he doesn’t know how to have a good relationship with them, so we see happy times and not as happy times and then move onto the next segment. With that, we learn a lot about the characters emotions, but rarely fully why these emotions exist. We get glimpses into their lives, but not enough for any of the characters to give any sort of impact. On top of that, the one character who is a constant, Rick, is rarely the focus of these scenes, the other people are almost entirely the main part of the film which makes it hard for me to understand how they effected Rick at all. Also, for a film about Christian Bale, he’s rarely in the shot at all. The cinematography really loves to barely crop his head and face out, so we see a lot of other people and Christian Bale’s shoulders.
Speaking of the cinematography, it was absolutely gorgeous. There are moments where you are constantly in peoples faces when it’s more intense, moments where the camera weaves about through a lot of people or just constantly moving back and forth like a wave (which pairs incredibly well with the constant beach and tide shots throughout the film), and odd angles and lenses making this a visual spectacle unlike anyone else could make. The music is also wonderful, and the one thing I could count on constantly being there and being great. The acting from everyone is fantastic, especially Natalie Portman and Wes Bentley, who portray such intense emotions, though opposite kinds of the spectrum, that it just shows you how amazing they are.
When it comes to Bale, this movie is tough. Like I said earlier, despite being the main character and main focus, we rarely get to see him at all. Most of the time when the camera focuses on him it’s for just a few seconds, which is rather annoying as Bale is the focus of this article. However, when the camera feels like showing him for over 3 seconds it is quite wonderful. There’s such raw and serene emotion on display here that I’ve never seen in him before, not even in Laurel Canyon. It’s as if he isn’t really acting, never once does it look and feel like he is acting here, it just comes across as real. That’s genuine talent portrayed by one of the greatest actors of all time and gotten out by one of the most fascinating, though not exactly for me, filmmakers of all time.
Verdict: Better Left Buried
I want to say this carefully: Knight of Cups is not a bad movie, it’s just that it’s a movie of an incredibly artistic nature and that tends to go a bit above my head. To others, the plot and importance of all my critiques might mean so much more to them. So if you are into really artsy films, or any other Terrence Malick films, check it out. I just can’t, with my personal taste and understanding, say that I liked it much at all. I was never bore by it, with it’s visuals, acting, and music, but I don’t ever plan on watching it again. To me it’s just a film about pretty and rich people being pretty and constantly whispering to the viewer.
Tune in next Monday when William digs into the films of Mark Ruffalo!