Thursday, March 03, 2016

Christian Bale meets The Hymn of the Pearl

CINEMA: 'Knight Of Cups' Isn't A True Story, But The Christian Bale Drama Comes From An Unexpected Source (SAGE YOUNG, Bustle).
Christian Bale attended Sunday night's Oscars as a Supporting Actor nominee for the financial crisis drama, The Big Short, but the inspiration behind his next project is much more obscure than a recent economic meltdown with global repercussions. Although Knight Of Cups isn't a true story, Bale plays a screenwriter at a personal crossroads. Family drama and loss push Rick farther into the hedonistic playground occupied by industry elite, and he's driven to face some harsh internal truths and the objects of past mistreatment. Director Terrence Malick is infamous for both his unconventional methods and long stretches between film releases, but what drove this particular piece of work?

Rick is not based on one existing Hollywood screenwriter, and Knight Of Cups doesn't follow one real-life experience. The film has its roots in a couple of vintage morality tales, including the 1698 allegory, The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To That Which Is to Come; Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream. (A catchier title than Knight Of Cups? You be the judge.) Author John Bunyan composed the story of Christian (who is a Christian, because that's how allegory works), who seeks forgiveness for his sins on his journey to the afterlife. According to Yahoo, The Knight Of Cups script takes more than the human need for absolution and mercy from The Pilgrim's Progress; the script includes passages and quotes taken directly from the text. The movie also pulls from another quest narrative, the "Hymn Of The Pearl" from the Gnostic Acts Of Thomas. In those verses, a young boy on a mission is waylaid by seductive forces before he sets himself back on his righteous path. The shared theme is clear: life is full of temptations, and most aren't born with a perfectly calibrated moral compass. Choice reigns supreme.

My bold-font emphasis. More on The Acts of Thomas is here. You can read a couple of English translations of "The Hymn of the Pearl" here. Cross-file under Gnosticism Watch.