ByPaul Donovan, writer at
A jerk with an opinion. An explorer of transgressive cinema. See more things about movies at
Paul Donovan

1. Visionary director Terrence Malick has out-Malicked himself with this movie. It's not a good way to introduce yourself to this director. It's his most abstract movie, and the hardest to get into.

2. The title of the film refers to the Tarot card of the same name, and most of the chapters in the movie are named after Tarot cards. If you know the meanings of the cards, it helps unlock some of the symbolism of the movie.

3. I won't bother trying to explain all the layers of what it's about. This is partly because I'm not totally sure myself, and partly because it's an impressionistic film, so it's really not my place to interpret it for you. You can find other articles that wax philosophic about What It Means.

4. The movie is basically a stream-of-consciousness drama about a guy named Rick who writes movies in Hollywood. He feels so alienated from his life that he has no idea what to do. He meets people (or flies them to visit him), in the hopes of finding some grounding, some direction, but it doesn't work.

5. It's also about the false grandeur of celebrity life. It makes Hollywood and Las Vegas look beautiful but corroded, covering the horrors of life. The images are acid that eat at your heart. As one character says in the movie "Drinking is bad, but feelings are worse." Another character says "My life is like playing Call of Duty on easy mode." The movie makes you wonder if the fragile, ugly glamour of celebrity culture also applies to regular people.

6. Yes the movie stars Christian Bale (and a bunch of other people), but do not - I repeat, do not - go to see the movie just because you are a Christian Bale fan. He doesn't do much except wander through cities, Hollywood parties, and nature landscapes, not talking. Bale was actually not even given a script, which forced him to improvise most of his lines when characters did speak to him.

7. There is not very much dialogue at all in the movie. Most of it is done with Malick's trademark narrative voice-overs, mumbled softly by characters, and which may or may not have anything to do with what you're seeing on screen.

8. The director of photography for the film is Emmanuel Lubezki, one of the best cinematographers in the world. If enjoying camera work is your thing, it's possible to give up trying to understand the film and just enjoy the artistic presentation of the images. It's that beautiful.

9. It's entirely understandable that a lot of people will not like this film. There is zero action. There is zero sex. I don't even remember if anybody really swears. Many will find this movie too pretentious and impossible to understand. But part of Malick's genius is that he doesn't care. He doesn't make movies for mass audiences. This is a super intimate, personal meditation on life that is both beautiful and painful. If you can surrender to his work, he will put you in a trance so that what you don't understand with your mind, you may understand in a deeper place.

What did you think? Artistic or terrible? Let us know!


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