There Will be Blood (2007) dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Ciaran Hinds
No film from 2007 got better on its second viewing than “There Will Be Blood” – not even “Control” which I cited as my favourite film, nor “No Country For Old Men”. I’m convinced Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece will gain an even stronger following over the ages and rise above and beyond its fellow 2007 Oscar nominees.
In my original review of “There Will Be Blood”, I gave a glowing four star rating with a mild asterix to the ending which I had thought was inconsistent in tone with the rest of the film. I’m not sure what my expectation was, but on second viewing, this minor blemish had erased itself.
Warning: Spoilers ahead...The finale, which changes from the open exterior plains of Texas to an expansive but cold and lifeless interior of the aged Daniel Plainview’s mansion, is the natural place for Anderson to take his film. The elder Plainview is a depressed and broken man. This final series of scenes explains everything about this wonderful character.
Contrast the opening scene to the final scene. The opening, which is shot and cut without dialogue, shows the painstaking detail of the process by which Plainview finds oil and becomes rich and powerful. The subsequent scenes show Plainview’s painstaking efforts to “swindle” the citizens of New Boston out of the oil they happen to sit on. Plainview’s enjoyment of his wealth derives completely from the process of making money – that is extraction, the swindling, and the destruction of his competition. Without the process Plainview is limp and lost.
And so Plainview’s hysterical drunkenness and over-the-top decadent and lifeless house is a result of a man with all the money in the world but nothing to accomplish.
Another fascinating aspect of the film which excited me on first viewing and deepened further on DVD is Anderson’s homage to “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Anderson’s frames subtly reference Kubrick’s ambitious film on several occasions:
Watch the opening shots which establish the environment of Texas, which eerily look like the pre-historic opening of the Dawn of Man sequence.
Watch the shot of Plainview alone at the beginning of the film eating his lunch, hunched over beside his well. He’s crouched eating his food with his hands like an animal. Compare this to Kubrick’s shot of the Neanderthal eating his first carnivorous meal after slaying the tapir.
Towards the end, check out the framing and action of Daniel Day-Lewis when beats down Paul Sunday with his bowling pin. Watch the identical framing of the famous discovery of weaponry scene by the Neanderthals, again in Kubrick’s Dawn of Man sequence.
And of course Anderson’s final act, which takes place in an opulent but cold mansion is eerily similar to Bowman’s final destination at the end of "2001".
It would be a stretch to find a thematic connection or something else profound in these specific similarities, instead it serves to show Anderson’s ambitiousness with his film. Like Kubrick in “2001”, Anderson aspires to greatness and pulls off the rare feat of achieving and arguably surpassing his and our expectations. Enjoy.
“There Will Be Blood” is now available on DVD from Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment