The title of Terrence Malick's latest film, Knight of Cups, is a reference to the divine tarot card of the same name. The Knight is a likeable character, smart, ethical, and charming, and is a calming figure amongst the erraticism of the tarot deck. He represents change, opportunity, and new romantic possibilities, and is a figure of boundless creativity. However, when drawn in reverse, the knight becomes a symbol of envy, recklessness and to an extent, fraud. And in one quick positional change, everything he previously represented is radically flipped.

In a similar manner to dual nature of this card, it seems as though criticism aimed at Malick's work now swings between polarised cries of genius or pretention, innovation or parody, and more recently between good and bad. Since his re-emergence as a director at the turn of the millennium, his art has been critically split into two distinct eras, the earlier being characterised by dreamlike narrative, whilst the latter is defined by oblique experimentation.

He has always been a divisive filmmaker, but with the release of The Tree of Life in 2011 the two camps of opinion surrounding his work were stretched further than ever, and where there was once a great spectrum of critical response there now remains a binary choice. For some, Malick's style is now the virtual embodiment of the phrase "You either love it or you hate it," and much of the discussion surrounding Knight of Cups so far has retreated back into the comfort of subjectivity so as to not unequivocally align themselves with these polarised reactions.

Knight of Cups undoubtedly falls into step with the latter era of Malick's career, continuing down the road of formal experimentation that was present in his early films but remained a supporting element until The Thin Red Line (1999) and The New World (2004).

There is little here in the way of conventional narrative. We skip relentlessly through time and space, and straight dialogue is largely replaced by enigmatic voiceover. The episodic manner in which it is presented negates any chance of the linear development of character or an overarching plot, and what little plot there is, is layered in dense symbolism and enigma.

However, these are not criticisms; simply a stating of the facts. In reality your opinion on this film will largely come down to one simple element - to what extent do you think film is art? Do you believe that lyrical snatches of whispered, disembodied voice can substitute for dialogue? Do you think that Malick is be able tell a story by deliberately disrupting the flow of information? And does a film that indulges in abstraction and symbolism appeal to you more than one that plays it straight? If you answered yes to all three, then Knight of Cups is for you. If not, then I suspect you'll have left the cinema before the second act.

More akin to poetry than prose, Malick's tone poem concerning a disillusioned screenwriter (?) in Los Angeles is perhaps closest to the characteristics of the Malick parody that his detractors have been pedalling for the last decade, but nonetheless contains some of his most expressive and emotionally rewarding experiments yet. We jump erratically between fleeting encounters with the women in protagonist Rick's (Christian Bale) life, and the vapid Hollywood parties he attends, all tied together with a charting of his descent into debauchery and immersion into the booze, drugs and sexual release that surrounds him, in a blur of aesthetic beauty and juxtaposing textures.

However, from my perspective, Knight of Cups is closer to progression than it is to parody. Though the style in which the film presents itself to us may feel similar to that of To The Wonder (2012) or the aforementioned The Tree of Life, it instead seems to be taking the formal innovations made in these films into ever deeper and uncharted territory, challenging our preconceptions of what cinema is in a much more obtuse and oblique manner, and very much pushing the envelope of what is possible in contemporary filmmaking. Composed largely in the editing suite, and as much as it often feels like the cinematic equivalent to Bowie's cut-up approach to lyrics, Knight of Cups repeatedly succeeds in its wild collage exercises.

And sure, some of these visual and tonal experiments fall flat, and those that submit to the idea that Malick has become a caricature of himself will take these often puzzling moments as proof that he has finally lost it, but is it not better to have tried and failed than never tried at all? Terrence Malick remains one of the few remaining filmmakers that seem willing to try and expand the boundaries of contemporary filmmaking, and regardless of how much you do love it or hate it, and what position you feel the tarot card lies here, there is still no one else with this kind of vision.