Remember back in 2011, when Terrence Malick released the literally indescribably powerful film “The Tree of Life” and let it be known that he had no less than three more films on their way? For a man whose entire, near-40 year career had so far yielded only four movies, it was thrilling to learn that it might take just four years to get as many again...
…and then everything got strange. Malick's next release, “To The Wonder,” was poorly reviewed (though not by us), his mysterious documentary “Voyage of Time” met legal roadblocks that have since been resolved, and his next drama, “Knight of Cups,” continued shooting with its extraordinary cast—Cate Blanchett, Isabel Lucas, Antonio Banderas, Wes Bentley, Imogen Poots, Freida Pinto, Teresa Palmer, Ryan O'Neal, Jason Clarke, Joel Kinnaman—but appeared to get no nearer to completion.
Increasingly, it has become clear that “Knight of Cups”, as is standard practice for Malick's work, will involved huge amounts of shot footage being boiled into a film in the editing process, which is taking a long time and leaving the vast and baffled cast unsure about whether any of them are even in the film, let alone what it's about (and let's not even get into whether it might related to Malick's other shooting project of the moment, an untitled film, which features Ryan Gosling and Rooney Mara among many others). Cate Blanchett and Joel Kinnaman have already mused, slightly nervously, about the experience of shooting their parts, and now so has Antonio Banderas, in a recent chat with Collider:
“I remember when I got to the set in the morning, he called me and said, ‘Antonio, I’m sorry I didn’t send you the script. You know why I didn’t send you the script?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Well, there is no script. We are just working as we go. I am creating the movie as I go. I have a central character and I have certain ideas, and I put him in different situations of life. The guy just tries to be a sponge and suck up everything he sees because he’s an artist. So, I’m shooting a lot of things, and I don’t know what I’m gonna edit because I have a movie where, if I put together the whole entire thing, it might be as long as a week. But, I invite you to play. Feel free. You have this monologue. You can start the monologue in the middle, if you want. I’m going to shoot it in different locations, in this party that we have over here. We’re gonna shoot it in the pool, in the hall, in this dancing scene, in the garden. So, you just relax and enjoy acting. If you even have any idea, please just throw it out.’”
But even with all that movement—and Banderas said he was "torpedoed" within scenes like various castmates (for more on that, read how Teresa Palmer described it)—when it came time to approve images, the actor had trouble recollecting the shoot.
“The other day, they sent me some pictures for my approval, and I didn’t even remember," he said. "I looked at the pictures and thought, ‘Oh, yeah, I remember that. I shot that. But I don’t remember this. What was that?’ It was so intense. It was 12-14 hours of absolute madness and, at the same time, of incredible findings. So, I don’t know. I have no idea what is going to come out of that participation. I think I am in the movie because somebody called me about the use of my name, and if they used my name, it’s because I am there."
Does this mean parts of the film are locked down? Even if it does, the final product could still be a long way off, but it's certainly an interesting process and it will no doubt produce a fascinating final film. We'll continue to watch the situation with childlike, wondrous eyes, until we get distracted by a passing bird or the dappled light created by trees at sunset.