Everybody’s got a story, and we all have our favourites and guilty pleasures. From the art-house to the bargain basement, movies impact us all in different ways. Judge not lest ye be judged. Here we hang out our Personal Bits. This week’s guest is ‘Bits regular Chloe Sesta Jacobs.
Written and directed by cinematic great Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood is loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil. Following the rise and rapid decline of “oil man” Daniel Plainview, whose fall from grace is less than noble, this film is known for the haunting, Oscar winning performance of Daniel Day-Lewis as the leading role.
Plainview is visited by a young man named Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) who promises him prime locations for oil drilling, of course at the right price. The oil is mainly located on the Sunday ranch so Plainview, along with his son and partner H.W (Dillon Freasier) travels to the farm to lock in a deal. He eventually gains the drilling rights, but not before meeting Paul’s identical twin brother (or is he?) Eli (also played by Dano). Eli is somewhat of an evangelical preacher who sets out to bleed money from Plainview for his Church of the Third Revelation. Incredibly self-assured, Plainview is a man who sticks by his beliefs and to him there is nothing worse than spiritual fraudulence which is why he despises Eli and wants nothing more than to bring about his downfall.
Daniel Plainview is unlike anyone in cinematic history. An incredibly persuasive man who strongly believes in the power of his words, speaking almost entirely in the indicative mood throughout the film. He makes declarations rather than forming questions, and he’ll stop at nothing to achieve his ends. This works out well, as he has no friends, hates everyone and doesn’t try to cover up his contempt. Plainview openly says there is “nothing worth liking” in anyone, he doesn’t want anyone else to succeed and always sees the worst in people.
The opening sequence, a dialogue-free introduction of around 20 minutes is instantly mesmerising. We see Plainview for the first time, struggling in silence after breaking his leg prospecting for gold. He manages to crawl his way out of a well and the next time we see him – 13 years later – he has emerged as a grandiose figure, immensely self-assured and confident, to say Plainview has ambition would be an understatement. His hands are very dirty, but it’s a non-issue for him. Completely consumed by his will to succeed and undoubtedly an anti-hero, he’s definitely not the kind of guy audiences ordinarily root for.
Greed, God and family, or the lack-there-of for the latter two, are the central themes throughout There Will Be Blood. However for a film essentially about oil, there is never a dull moment. At 158 minutes you’re in for the long haul, but even the slow, scenic panning shots are unlike no other, especially since they’re accompanied by Johnny Greenwood’s incredibly memorable score.
We see an incredible supporting performance from Dano, but it is hard to leave There Will Be Blood thinking about anyone but Day-Lewis. From his voice to stoic nature, eventually broken down by Eli in the unforgettable “I’ve abandoned my child!” scene, there is no doubt this film could not have been made without this fine actor. We see no tenderness, no real displays of love or affection and there is most definitely no sex. The oil world as seen in There Will Be Blood is definitely a man’s world, with women playing little to no roles at all.
Paul Thomas Anderson continuously challenged audience expectations throughout There Will Be Blood and certainly doesn’t disappoint with an unforgettable ending no one saw coming. His lack of a happy ending goes against the traditional Hollywood ending and makes the film even more unique. The last words we hear are Plainview’s “I’m finished”, declaring not only that the film is over, but he is literally over – he has given in to insanity and his life is over.
There Will Be Blood is undeniably epic. That’s just all there is to it.