Dazza Reviews KoC

By September 13, 2015Nat-news

Ah, the beauty of living in Berlin – seeing interesting films early! I’ve just come back from a Knight of Cups screening and tapped up some thoughts. I think this would be considered spoiler free for the most part.

You break up with a girlfriend. You lose a parent. You fall in love. You learn you’re having a child. These “big” moments are followed by moments of reflection. You’re going about your life but your mind is elsewhere, back in the moment. Most films don’t like to delve too deeply into this aftermath. It doesn’t make for great cinema.

KoC is almost 2 hours of those non-moments strung together. Only for the briefest moments do we see the real moments of life occurring and when we do, within seconds they are gone and we are with a reflective Bale ruminating in standard Malick fashion about life, love and everything in between.

For me, the film was frustratingly sublime. Or sublimely frustrating. I think the Malick films that I love most have a certain rhythm, a balance between the poetic and the grounded. For instance Tree of Life, for all it’s poetry it still has scenes where characters engage with one another. Talk to one another. Live lives. When we go from a strong family scene to an intensely symbolic montage of images and poetry afterwards, the two scenes work in tandem, each making the other better.

KoC doesn’t have this balance. It has one note. A beautiful note to be sure but there can’t have been more than 2 or 3 sentences between characters in the whole film before we are rudely whisked away. I wanted to see more of Bale’s life. I wanted to see more of his relationships. The particulars. The real moments. The film may reflect his isolated and uncertain state but in doing so I felt kept at arm’s length.

Only Natalie and Blanchett’s relationships have a glimpse of something deeper. There are moments of incredible tenderness and beauty between this string of beautiful women and Bale, but very rarely do we glimpse a real interaction. What they say to each other isn’t important to Malick in this film, it is all about what they say to themselves.

In short this is a challenging and fragmented film. It will speak to people very differently and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone absolutely fell head over heels for it. The transcendent moments are certainly there, even if for me they lacked power because of that balance I spoke about earlier.

It is incredibly hard to talk about the performances because you only get glimpses. Even Bale, who is on screen for almost the entire film, is just simply there. I suppose we certainly do feel his isolation and his struggles, but the canvas is too far away. I struggled to make out the details.

As for Natalie, her role is very important and I was definitely left wanting more. Her on screen time must be around 10-15 minutes but, as with all the relationships, it felt like a trailer for the real thing. From what I glimpsed I dare say there is a feature length film on the cutting room floor that is just a great relationship drama between Bale and Natalie.

To sum up, this probably sounds very harsh but it’s because I expect a lot from Malick and there are moments that are just saw jaw dropping that I wanted more. I just couldn’t stop myself wishing the film was something it was not.

PS – Natalie on the amusement park ride isn’t in the final cut.
PPS – Bale gets to taste a part of Natalie that (I assume) very few people have experienced.


Author Dazza

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Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • Belerofonte says:

    Thanks for the review, Dazza. Seeing the reception that it was in Berlin, I think it was expected.

    The important thing for me is that we can finally talk about a Natalie movie after almost TWO YEARS without releases. Photos in magazines, public appearances, interviews …. That’s all fine, but the important thing is to be able to see her on screen. This year has not been very successful to say, but I hope that next year we can see more interesting projects …

  • Juan234 says:

    PPS – Bale gets to taste a part of Natalie that (I assume) very few people have experienced.


    • Dazza says:

      Haha. You heard me.

      It is an odd moment. I wonder if Natalie just decided to do it on her own, in the spirit of the freedom Malick encourages.

  • inderweltsein says:

    The feeling you had (wanting more) is precisely what Malick is searching now:
    a film that evokes more by what it does not show rather that by it does show.
    This is partly the object of an essay by Reno Lauro (that works on Malick films) for The Thin Red Line..

    I would really recommend you to see it again, as often as you can, the film is better and better, and you will see a structure you may have not seen, a common theme linking all this moments and the conclusion.., in the words… (I will probably share with you my views on the subject)
    Accepting the style research of Malick, with this constraint, I really feel this is probably the greatest film Malick has ever edited, in form and in poetry, a film so rich, that it’s like a weaver weaving too dazzling wires, and a too huge drawing for us to assimilate on the first viewing.
    That’s why sometimes we have seen very harsh reviews, saying us that the film is an empty shell, while in fact, the empty shells are the critics that were not able to see the richness behing the dazzle (and there have been reviews like this ones, again after the recent Deauville festival, but some opposite too)
    While anyone that makes the effort (yes, an effort, but the effort is rewarded) to accept the strange language, and to dig into it, will see the most extraordinary form Malick has ever produced, and a depth, maybe superior to the form.
    The film will be reassessed by the harsh reviewers, like the previous one, To the Wonder.. The problem is on them, being blind to what is probably the most incredible cinema gesture Malick has ever done.

    • Dazza says:

      Well it’s in the eye of the beholder isn’t it? As I said, I can appreciate how the film might work powerfully for some people. I’ve had similar experiences with Malick like seeing the TRL as a teenager and hating it and then years later seeing it again and being transfixed.

      I think Malick working entirely in the margins is certainly brave and bold, but it just left me frustrated. Again, for ME, my favourite Malick films are more intertwined between the ecstatic, the poetic and real life.

      KoC felt bloodless to me. Inhuman almost, which I know is the total opposite of what he is all about. I’ll always give Malick credit for his filmmaking chops and his vision, but his last two films have just not connected with me.

  • edenLiao says:

    thanks for the review Dazza! I knew that you wrote it but I haven’t read because I want to feel the movie in my own way first. now, just got back from a special screening in Taiwan, I decide to read your article. it’s about the time.
    totally agree with the balance, that’s what I felt too. Tree of Life did it wonderfully. audience got know about the story and the characters’ lives clearly. in the meantime we can feel the vision, the poetry. all the things get along, worked so well. I think even To The Wonder balanced better than KoC. tbh, before Natalie’s character showed up. I had no idea what was happening. I was confused by the shattered fragments of Bale’s life. then Natalie’s there. her appearance completed it. it’s like a circle. you got through all the life experiences and you set off again. a journey ahead, never ends.
    the truth is. I remembered how much my heart was triggered when watching Tree of Life. cried a lot. I got some tears for To the Wonder as well. but KoC. I didn’t feel that much. perhaps I’m just too stupid or too young to interpret Malick’s work. but that’s what I feel. I think I’ll watch it plenty times in the future to see if age matters.
    okay these are all the English words I know to describe my thought. I probably sound like murmuring and doesn’t make any sense. 😛

    • Dazza says:

      Thanks for the post. Sorry you had a similar experience to me. Yeah, it’s just a really difficult film to penetrate.

  • edenLiao says:

    btw, just saying. at least 5 people left the theater during the showing and never came back. two of them left in the first 30 mins I think. also, many fell asleep (I could hear snoring…). I don’t know if this happened in other countries but it really upsets me. 🙁