Wednesday, May 14, 2008

There Will Be Blood

There is no room for god in this capitalist existence! As Daniel Plainview stood on his knees apparently accepting the lord into his heart and confessing his sins, the reprimand he received from the preacher seemed more like the ravenous strikes of a timid school boy than the fearsome blows dispensed by a benevolent being. There is no god! This man who crawled on his back for miles with a broken leg in the scorching desert just to claim his small stake on this planet, never once in his blood filled heart turned to faith or hope in a another being to give him help or offer him strength. And where does a man with a broken leg who has slithered across the hot sand for hours go once he finds his way back into civilization? To stake his claim of course! Staring death in the face, Plainview achieved financial success on a level that would make any mother and father proud. On a scale that could afford him any extravagance on the planet. But not until the last few moments of the film do we see any sign of his monetary success. Only then it is made apparent by the director of ‘There Will Be Blood’ that Daniell has reached his financial and materialistic apex. And all that is left for him to do at this point is to prove once and for all that there is no god by forcing renunciation from a lamb and bludgeoning his head against the cold wooden floor with a shiny new bowling pin. As Eli Sunday’s body lies inert on the floor with blood oozing slowly out of his skull, Daniel finally exhales and declares; ‘Now I am finished’.

After a whole day of contemplating the film ‘There Will Be Blood’, that is what I have walked away with. That there is no room for god in this OUR capitalist existence. This is a movie that can touch people on numerous levels and tap into various doors of perception, basically because it is a fantastically made film. On one level you could receive the film as an expression of how human obsessions with fortune and success have driven us to forget the importance of relationships. You could also accept the directors vision as a portrayal of the battle taking place in the minds of individuals struggling to find a strong foothold in modern society. Or it could be a neo-political portrayal of the current attitude of the US administration neglecting the call of human rights and religious freedom, as they dig feverishly through the ground searching for black gold. Also after having watched the film you cannot deny the biblical references to Cain and Able.

I believe art is subjective and through this medium the director has managed extracting to film aspects of our existence that make us cringe but that cannot be denied. As much as we adore and idolize Daniel Plainview for achieving the ‘American Dream’ against impossible of odds, the same character traits that have made him drive so hard for success have also left him emotionally crippled. His selfish attitude may have taken him to the top but have also left him a worn down lonely old man, grey and hunched with nothing but hatred and vengeance in his heart. Whilst due to the series of events that take place in the film you are left with no remorse for this man, you cannot help but feel some admiration for his yearning of success, even if it was the desire to see other people fail that drove him. The viewer is forced to ask the question, success at what cost…

Daniel Day Lewis was the perfect choice to portray the role of this complex and eclectic character. Any other actor would have just looked like himself in a costume, but Daniel Day Lewis IS Daniel Plainview. Throughout this film there is not a scene where you will notice the actor unless you try to. The only other time which comes to mind right now that I saw an actor so immersed this deeply in his role was when Val Kilmer played Jim Morrison in The Doors. Enough said… As for the actor who played Eli Follower, I cannot recall having seen him in any other film prior to this. But his depiction of this character is equally spellbinding. His eerie depiction of Eli is strangely haunting and queer. But extremely deliberate. I cannot help but feel that the fine details of all performers have been fine tuned and pointed in a particular direction.

The bulk of praise for this masterpiece, or charge for this atrocity should fall souly upon the writer-director Paul Tomas Anderson. Some sources claim this film is based loosely upon the novel’ Oil’ by Upton Sinclair but I have no knowledge of that. All I can say is that I was captivated. For almost the first 20 minutes of the film there is no script, yet the dark images on the screen drew me in. The fact that there is no prominent female character in the movie is also worth mentioning. You can tell off the bat that every camera angle, every sound, and every frame of this film has been premeditated. There are no wild strokes here that let the paint fall where it may, Paul Thomas Anderson was making a statement but what is that exactly? His wide camera shots look like Monet paintings. The colors of the entire film blended from a single pallet. What about the names of the main characters, Plainview and Follower. Do these have any significance? As I have said before, art is subjective and in my opinion, any piece that can make an individual stop and contemplate its purpose for as long as I have deserves attention. If you are looking for effortless entertainment ‘There Will Be Blood’ is probably as far away from that as you could get. Commitment of the team behind this production demands similar commitment from the viewer, and for me it was a pleasure.

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