There Will Be Blood (US, 2007)

The twisted pursuit of power

The twisted pursuit of power

My students have been telling me to watch this film for the last 18 months; don’t know why it took me so long to get to it as Day Lewis is one of my favourites, as is Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia (1999). Much as enjoyed the direction, some terrific long takes that took in much action, and Day Lewis is as good as ever, I felt the film was less than satisfactory. It could be the way I engaged with the film as I struggled to make sense of what was going on; not the narrative, that’s straightforward, but the film’s trajectory. I couldn’t decide what Daniel Plainview’s motivaton was; though it was always likely that his character was built on bitterness – given Day Lewis’ casting –  but this wasn’t clear until he talked about hate with his ‘brother’. So for a good half of the film I wasn’t sure what the film was trying to say; in the end it didn’t say that much.

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One Response

  1. I always assumed that his motivation was greed and the urge to become powerful and to have power over people, to be superior as he is utterly selfish, which is shown by the relationship with the Sunday family and his ‘son’. For me I always enjoy a film in which I did not know where it was taking me, and for a great deal of the film, I had no idea where the characters or the story was going to end up. I believe it is an ambitious film that has a lot of ideas and messages but There Will Be Blood wants you to really search for them, without the film telling you straight off what it is actually ‘about’. Of course there are things to do with religion and capitalism, the bonds of family and the whole oil-blood theme. I think it is a superior film to No Country for Old Men as you really feel emotion for the characters and suprising for me, as Plainview is not a very nice man, all the way through I sided with him, I always thought he made the right descisions and I did feel sorry for him. Great films always divide audiences, I think it is one of the best films of this decade, others call it boring and others call it too pretentious for its own good. I think it’s a masterpiece, but there we go.

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