Analysing a movie like There will be blood is like climbing a mountain : you do not know how and where to start ! So, let’s analyse by the beginning : the whole story.
Paul Thomas Andersen is used to make spectators think (see Magnolia).
Synopsis of the movie :
Daniel Plainview goes in a small town of California where he hopes finding oil in the ground. Lost in this place where everyone struggles to survive and where the only distraction is the church led by the charismatic priest Eli Sunday, Plainview and his son understand the city will be an easy pray. Even if the oil meets their expectations and made their fortunes, nothing will be as before: the tensions are intensified, conflicts occur and human values like love, hope, sense of community, beliefs, ambition and even the relationship between father and son is imperiled by corruption, betrayal … and oil.
Black as blood :
The opening of the film, mineral, sensory, immediately gives the tone: There Will Be Blood is a cosmogonic film. That is to say that this film invented and deployed, shot by shot, a cosmos in itself, a physical universe.
There Will Be Blood is then directed a concrete physical space and consistent. At its core, two raw materials: earth and fire. The marriage of these two elements are embodied in the earthly avatar of the element that is oil. Oil gushes into streams explosives, causing fear and fascination, when one digs into the bowels of the earth. Oil: the blood of the land – referred to in the title.
Oil, as a promise of wealth, contaminates the mind. In the same way, the earth, with its thick texture and dark, contaminating the image. While the plans outside, bathed in a light almost full, are legion, but in contrast, they make all the more patent the darkness of an image as invaded by the clay. Besides the many fades to black, there are countless plans obscure that they are nocturnal and underground. Sometimes you just guess the shapes of the body, the glow of a flame, tenuous but persistent, has dangled in the faces. Such spectral apparitions, quivering faces seem to float in the darkness, and even come.
It was during this stage that Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) said: “I do not like people.” He insists: “The more I watch the men, the less I like them. “. The key to this character mute, rigid, stubborn, seems impenetrable when found: this is an incurable misanthrope. We will never know exactly why: we do not learn about his past. No psychologizing, much less psychoanalysis. Misanthropy is there like a block from the depths of time, or the substance of the soul. This character embodies an archetype fascinating but ultimately classic, only more outrageous than other films, its lack of justification, its radical make even scary. The film is also a cosmological film about a man’s psyche. Even a horror movie?
To better understand these characters back to the title. Literally, there will be blood. Is this a threat? In a prophecy? From a simple prediction? A little of this, no doubt. Apocalyptic in the procession called by such a title, Daniel Plainview is the torchbearer of the threat, and Eli Sunday (Paul Dano, excellent), that of prophecy, the two complement each other and even merge. Because in the end, these characters are of the same nature, to both of the same coin. Two sinners in their own way – outside the opposite, basically similar. Allegorically, they could represent the archetypal American man as it appears in the founding myths of the nation: the “self-made man” and the missionary, in other words, the plutocrat and the religious fanatic, both manipulative and even criminals. Plainview would it not some kind of vampire, solitary misanthrope who metaphorically drinking the blood of his entourage? And Sunday, taking advantage of the credulity of his flock, not sacrifice he not also the same greed? Eli Sunday says in the last scene he caught a lot, but he said no more: we can imagine the worst. The madness of these characters is the guarantor of their vitality, their success, but also their downfall. For the mystery of his motives, Paul Plainview telescope is that other legend that is the plutocrat Charles Foster Kane of Orson Welles (Citizen Kane). It is not forbidden to think of Howard Hughes, directed by Scorsese recently in Aviator. It is significant that all have fallen at the end of their lives in loneliness and depression.
The relationships between the characters are power relations. Not a trace of love (other than a filial and fraternal affection ultimately thwarted) and even less sex, which is surprising in an American film prior public. What happened to the female characters? The film is exclusively masculine, harsh and merciless. The constant rivalry led to the emergence of mimetic violence in the sense that has defined the anthropologist and philosopher René Girard. The violence broke out in memorable sequences, particularly in connection with the confrontation between Daniel Plainview and Eli Sunday. It is thought that first stage of conversion to Plainview agrees that in order to build its pipeline, the last scene will echo this confrontation, the point of caricature and the explosion. Hieratic, theatrical, sometimes outrageous, they were facing something kubrickien (Clockwork Orange, Shining …): they think of rituals. Or a ritual, if one believes some studies on the anthropology of religion (René Girard, yet), proceeds from a sacrificial process. According to Girard, cultures and religions (etymologically, “which links”) base their foundations on a sacrifice founder: the execution of an innocent victim can weld the community by channeling mimetic violence to a scapegoat. All sacred texts, primarily the Bible, more or less explicitly refer to these sacrifices founders. Here we find many of the biblical myths cited inflected, often reversed. Some examples. On the negative with the sacrifice by Abraham of his son Isaac, HW Plainview is abandoned, hated by his father, the reversal seems to proceed from an absence of God, the last scene seems to endorse. “A bastard in a basket,” repeated the father about his son – an allusion to Moses, except that it would not have a savior? But hatred is often sublimated form of love. Daniel loves he his son? We think so: in the deafness of his son is basically a part of himself that he rejects. What he saw is worse than pulling: an amputation. From there, his suffering, his downfall. Another example is the fake brother Daniel was killed at the hands of it, which recalls the myth of Cain and Abel. Finally, Eli Sunday, unlike Jesus, has no difficulty to recant his faith before his accuser and enemy: “I am a false prophet and God is a superstition. “.
There would therefore, punctuating the film with “founding murder” the complacent collective representations wanted obscure. The bloodshed may be the creation of the US nation as it has actually taken place. Transmute an unmentionable part of the collective unconscious American story with hints of horror film, this is the most daring manifesto PT Anderson, assisted by the interpretation in turn internalized and paroxysmal Daniel Day-Lewis. There Will Be Blood can be read as an allegory, whose allusive character leaves the field open to interpretation: mimetic condemnation of violence, religious fanaticism, unbridled capitalism, the desire for power? This ambiguity is not without a blur.
Finally, There Will Be Blood is unconvincing as a suspense drama, psychological study, or even allegorical work: too horizontal, too allusive, too flamboyant. In impenetrability which can give a feeling of emptiness. By cons, it fascinates as a “film-matter”, both viscous, flowing, black as the blood, and requiring the presence of a physical universe, psychological and musical.
Just like Daniel Day-Lewis, whose facial expressions are reduced but the mesmerizing presence, the film needs to exist little effect: it is here, the effect is incidental, but the texture of all decisive. As if an issue first formal working the work. We do not want to say is that the formalism is stifling psychoanalytic and symbolic significance: in fact, one accepts it or not, this is the “bottom” that is subordinate to the “form”, “ethics “subject to the” aesthetic “, not the name of the absolute primacy of the latter, but under a vision of art as work, prismatic object par excellence, is designed to be integrated interpreted, supported by the viewer.
This concept of “film-object” was already at work in Boogie Nights, but the mannerisms of PT Anderson was bewildered when the film ostensibly brilliant too insignificant a balloon (remember especially the final scene, a sad reversal of the Raging Bull ). One could say the same for Magnolia, proliferating film, saturated, sometimes cunning, who sought too to impress or excite. As for Punch-Drunk-Love, invigorating but quickly forgotten, it lacked the scale and uniqueness nothing to really convince. In There Will Be Blood, released from its dross and its temptations of copyists, PT Anderson is playing on a line more sober and clear, his vision of the human being seems to have settled any sentimentality. An undeniable artistic maturity is at work, it would be difficult to analyze more precisely because it is first to feel it, live it. Suffice it to recall in this regard, the dying seconds of There Will Be Blood. The last words echo the film: “I’m finished.” Then stillness. Black screen. Credits and triumphal music, almost swirling. Using the final Brahms Violin Concerto – against employment almost provocative, but exhilarating at the same time surprisingly – seems to echo the way Kubrick concluded in 2001 (with The Blue Danube) or Orange Mécanique (with Singing In the Rain). In these jobs-cons must collect more than the irony: it is our view of the expression intoxicating, almost cathartic of a creator that dares to blow chilly codes of representation to better reflect an underlying reality Here, in this case, the explosive power and madness of murder, who evacuated in music and euphoric at the same time majestic, as if to mark the solemnity of the “founding crime,” and, to a jubilant amoral ( primarily formal), the self-powered “film-matter” of its own sap.
In fact, this feature gives off hints of horror film, so it seems a priori away.
A horror movie is horrific by the title first. Blood will flow, we read in Gothic letters. Typology to describe same dates. Elliptical, inexorable narrative overlooks the years, from 1898 until 1927. A latent threat but electric plane in the air often stale and suffocating the film. No gory pictures, or indulgence in violence, even if human blood is indeed running, but the atmosphere is constantly in tune with this tension dull, mysterious and even more disturbing.
The strangeness and horror of the film is reflected dramatically in the soundtrack. One can not help thinking of the scores of Ligeti or Penderecki employed Shining. Some plans at the end of There Will Be Blood, showing the deep and symmetrical rooms of the manor of Daniel Plainview, also clearly reminiscent of Kubrick’s film (although the shadow is substituted by the light). These are doubly dissonant music: by their atonality, of course, but also by their hiatus with the images – most often, large areas bright and desert, where it does not happen much. Saving, this film pushes the viewer’s gaze formatted. Gus Van Sant had indeed already been used in compositions of Arvo Pärt to accompany the images of the desert in Gerry, but it was a film at once experimental, little marked and slightly dramatized.
Here, for the time frame, the narrative context, we find the marks of a kind highly evocative and eminently American: the western. The audience conditioned by decades of Western representations expects a melodic or lyrical music, something exciting, bitter or sad, between Max Steiner (as in John Ford) and Ennio Morricone (Sergio Leone). However, they are more familiar to the viewer agreements horror movie that sound at the opening. This gap is somewhat unsettling, which contributes to the hypnotic power of the first scenes, stubbornly silent: Daniel Plainview, almost solitary, mute, mineral, hollow earth, and rushes into the fore stubbornly. Like many other scenes, the plans of operation are filmed with a sober fascinated, almost hieratic. The strangeness of anxiety musical commentary distills a widespread malaise. The parade sequence. Dryness of their sequence. Horizontality almost suspicious of the narrative, that no psychology a little bit subtle or explicit just dig. Little flashes of staging. Simplicity, even the most academic frames. Each scene seems glued to the previous and the next, as extracted from a hallucination or a nightmare, and stitched afterwards to compose the film impressive, long and weighing as a funeral march. This mysterious confrontation between images and music polarizes more attention to the characters, the trembling ghosts that haunt the space of film.
Aesthetically splendid, this film is a cathedral. This huge work tells about capitalism emergency and Daniel Plainview is the living metaphor of the Modern US.
Related articles about There will be blood and film analysis:
- 100 Essential Directors – Paul Thomas Anderson (Mixed Media) (popmatters.com)
- Yet another reason to fear the size of Amazon.com (michaeledwardkelly.com)
- Take Three: Paul Dano (thefilmexperience.net)
- Top Films of the 2000s: #9 There Will Be Blood (printthelegend.wordpress.com)