Presented March 12, 2021. at the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA), 52nd Annual Convention. Malick’s 2015 Knight of Cups portrays the chaotic-yet-cathartic life of a Hollywood screenwriter and his spiritual ascent out of decadence towards existential meaning. With the backdrop of John Bunyan’s 17th century allegory, the prison epistle The Pilgrim’s Progress, and the constant visual storytelling themes of Platonic ascesis and enlightenment, the film can be fairly interpreted as utilizing the scala literary form, that is, having to do with the “ladder of divine ascent.”
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