February 26, 2008

There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood (TWBB) might play like an epic film but its, at best, a great character study. Set during the early days of oil drilling in USA, its the story of Daniel Plainview who goes from being a gold hunter to an oil prospector to an oil baron in the span of the film. The slow pace of the film makes it look long than all of it’s 150 plus minutes of screen time but you’d hardly find it difficult to take your eyes off the screen. Loosely based on a book by Upton Sinclair, Anderson has adapted the first 150 pages and the main character but changed around a lot of things.

Having seen all of Paul Thomas Anderson's films in the sequence he had made them, shows you the growth of a director who has been said by many to be the Martin Scorsese of his generation. Though Hard Eight was his first feature, it's with Boogie Nights that this crafty filmmaker announced his arrival. The setting of TWBB offers Anderson many opportunities to show his prowess. Some sequences in the film are sheer genius like the scene where Paul Sunday shows the map of Isabella County to Plainview, his partner and his son, HW. Even though there are three or four occasions when the characters point out to the map, Anderson doesn't leave their faces and show you a rudimentary close up of the map. The scene where Plainview’s son, HW looses his hearing after an oil burst, Plainview’s baptism and the one where HW returns from the city will surely linger on for a long time.

Anderson is known for his long and well-choreographed shots, most memorable one being the opening sequence of Boogie Nights. All of five minutes, the single shot establishes all major characters and their queerness in one go. The multi-character driver Magnolia features a million sub-plots. The film might not stand-up Robert Altman's Shortcuts but still manages to drain you out by the end of it. TWBB seems a little different from his earlier film but more that later.
Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the very few young directors who seem to really inspired by classic American films. He never misses an opportunity to pay them rich odes. It’s difficult to avoid direct comparisons whit your idols but Anderson has managed to rise above the trappings of hero-worshiping. Orson Welles’ and his crane shot in A Touch Of Evil seems to have fueled Boogie Nights. Anderson states Sidney Lumet's Network to be the inspiration behind the character inter-play of Magnolia and proudly claims to have seen The Treasure of Sierra Madre every night while making There Will Be Blood.

All of Anderson's films boast of great performances- Philip Baker Hall in Hard Eight; Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Philip Seymour Hoffman and William H Macy in Boogie Nights; Tom Cruise in Magnolia- but it's Day Lewis in TWBB who takes the cake. He immerses himself in oil and looks and feels every bit of Daniel Plainview. The problem with most of his films is simply that they suffer from a weak finale. Boogie Nights by far had the best ending after Hard Eight. The precocious climax of Magnolia might distract the viewer but it can't be over-looked that the ending was a little too convenient when it came to the characters resolving their conflicts.

There Will Be Blood is a true departure from signature style of Paul Thomas Anderson. He changes his approach from multiple characters to a story of person who is larger-than-life. His hyper-kinetic shot taking and camera movement makes way for thoughtful slow and almost somber shots. Like his previous films, the setting of the story continues to have prominence and we still come across some long shots but his staging of characters is a throwback to classical style. The other thing that stands out is the haunting background score by Johnny Greenwood. Watch the film for a great performance by Day Lewis and of course, to see a great filmmaker in the making.

Image courtesy: www.telegraph.co.uk, www.guardian.co.uk

1 Responses to “There Will Be Blood”

  • There Will Be Blood was an excellent character study, but if you think that is all the movie was, you weren't paying attention. The film was commentary on the history of America. Not just the beginnings of the oil era, but of America from its conception to modern day; from hard work and humble beginnings to greed, corruption and thirsting after more and more material goods, specifically oil.
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