24 August 2011

20 Aug- "I hate most people"

There Will Be Blood (2007)
dir. Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, 1999)

Daniel Day-Lewis (The Last of the Mohicans, 1992)
Barry Del Sherman (Independence Day, 1996)
Paul F. Tompkins (Tangled, 2010)
Kevin Breznahan (Alive, 1995)
Jim Meskimen (Magnolia, 1999)
CiarĂ¡n Hinds (The Tale of Desperaux, 2008)
Kevin J. O'Connor (Peggy Sue Got Married, 1986)
Hans Howes (Seabiscuit, 2003)

A Professor once told me that it would be possible to construct a fairly complete history of the United States using Daniel Day-Lewis movies. I have not attempted to validate his point at this time, but I will say than DDL spends a lot of time dressed in period costume.

This story, though, is very applicable in these times of exploitation by the energy industry, and industry in general. This movie is about Daniel Plainview, a turn of the century oilman who amasses a great fortune but nevertheless ends up bitter, angry, and alone. Plainview lies to the people of the community, tricks them out of their natural resources, and profits from the land they live on. There is an antagonistic relationship between him and the town's preacher, suggesting maybe that religion and business are irreconcilable (there's something about a camel and the eye of needle, dig it?). However, the preacher, Eli Sunday, never seems like a very nice guy, either, and by the end we learn that he has squandered his money, become destitute. He tries to convince Plainview to buy the very last piece of untapped land in the community.

The scenes between Eli Sunday and Daniel Plainview are the very best in the movie. The first happens when Plainview is getting baptized to gain the trust of a community member. The second occurs when Eli visits Daniel at the end of the film. Both of these scenes are highly emotional and intensely physical - you can tell they are throwing their whole bodies into it, and it was at this point that I decided that Paul Dano is a good actor, and not just the awkward-looking teenager in Little Miss Sunshine.

The emotional aspect comes from the anti-hero's inability to create a familial bond. Despite an obvious yearning to do so, he consistently destroys every loving relationship he creates. The first is with his adopted son, who he sends away only to call back, but then disowns him at the end of the movie. The second is with the man who impersonates his brother, who, although deceptive, we can only assume was genuine in his desire for a fraternal relationship. Finally, when Eli Sunday makes the claim that he and Daniel are "brothers," Daniel loses control entirely. For this reason he ends up alone, a loser.

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