Arguably one of the most polarizing directors to emerge from the “New Hollywood” movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s is Terrence Malick, who has garnered a reputation for his defining use of vivid imagery and esoteric, philosophical themes. Since his 1973 debut film, Badlands, proved to be a huge success, Malick has had a distinguished career, directing hits such as Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line and The Tree of Life.
Malick’s latest film, Knight of Cups, follows a screenwriter named Rick (Christian Bale) as he attempts to make sense of a life that he feels is devoid of meaning. Rick is shown trekking through Hollywood, meeting different women each of whom represent different tarot cards or aspects of his life. Each woman he meets takes him on a new adventure and ultimately gives him a sense of fulfillment.
The Wheel had a conference call with the film’s producers and reporters from two other college newspapers to discuss the logistics of filmmaking and their feelings about the production of Knight of Cups.
Vikrant Nallaparaju, The Emory Wheel: What do you hope audiences take away from the film?
Sarah Green: All of Terry [Malik’s] films speak differently to different audience members. I don’t want to say what the next person would take away, because that’s their experience. I take away an idea for meaning in life and making sure that we don’t miss some of what we might be learning or experiencing due to being too busy. We hope each of you will have a strong sense of what the film is saying and take that away and talk with your friends about it.
Nicolas Gonda: One of the remarkable things about all of Terry’s films is that he’s exploring new ground. Being able to find enchantment is, I think, one of the remarkable things about all of Terry’s films, but in a distinct way, audiences can be enchanted and find something in their own lives in the film. We hope audiences will be participants in the film, not spectators.
David Miller, Columbia Chronicle, Columbia University (N.Y.): How do you think Malick’s use of myth and archetypes affect the subjectivity of the film’s message?
SG: I think you have to look to the clues that Terry gives us in the filmmaking. It starts with a bit of Tolkien, and then it has a bit of a Persian tale called ”The Story of the Western Exile.” Those are all signposts for understanding the structure of the movie itself, but he tells us what they are, and if we’re listening, that will inform our experience of the film. We try not to tell everyone what the big reveal is … but in a way, that’s for you to analyze.
Noah Roberts, Technique, Georgia Institute of Technology: Sarah and Nicholas, you both worked with Malick before on The Tree of Life. What’s it like working with him behind the scenes?
NG: You can answer that question so many different ways. When you walk on a Terry Malick film [set] for the first time, it’s like a ballet. Everyone approaches each day with agility. It really depends on where they are in their career and who they are.
DM: Given that [Malick’s] process is so intuitive and organic, like an organ, as you described it, would you say that in working on this film and going through [Malik’s] artistic process, the cast and crew grow in the process as much as the characters in the film discover themselves?
NG: I think that people do find, after working on a Terry Malick film, that they’ve had a singular experience. They learn something new about their craft and that goes for every single department, from the head [studio executive] to everyone within the department. It’s a personal experience not only for the audience, but also for everyone involved in making the film. It’s an extremely collaborative environment and everyone’s ideas are appreciated, so, by way of that, people learn a lot about their craft and their inspirations.
VN: Did any other works inspire the concept behind Knight of Cups? If so, how?
NG: It’s not any other works that have inspired it, since it’s purely an original work, but Terry is deeply inspired by many things. You will hear the Brian Dennehy quote at the beginning of the film where he tells a story of this prince called ”The Tale of the East” ... a prince who is sent on a journey from his father and falls asleep and wakes up and has to rediscover where he was going. [It’s about] waking up from our everyday routine and appreciating the spectacle of life and the journey we’re all on.
Knight of Cups was released nationwide on March 4.