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Gold Trumpet:
A Bloody Mess
Notes on There Will be Blood





There Will Be Blood has risen as a personal favorite among critics and audience members. The praise has been so extensive that the film only knows a few rivals for best of the year. During most years critics are able to sufficiently disagree with each on what is the best, but this year No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood have run away with most considerations. The few critics who have gone against the hype have had to issue statements in their reviews that were acknowledgements of the large leap they were taking. What sometimes happens when a film becomes universally applauded is that acceptance of agreements and disagreements gives way to a situation where the minority is just trying to get some representation. Andrew Sarris met the situation when his failure to acknowledge No Country for Old Men as a great film left readers attacking him. He responded in his annual top ten list award by giving No Country the entire category of ďMovies Other People Liked and I DidnítĒ. There Will Be Blood could get similar recognition for those who disliked it.

Iím not a fan of There Will be Blood. I actually dislike almost every part of the film. Most critics would be dismissive when dealing with a film of zero favor to them, but the praise and ambition of Paul Thomas Andersonís latest is forcing me to take issue with all of the criticisms. There Will be Blood is also so large and complicated that a simple review cannot cover all the problems so Iím utilizing an old structure to tackle the film. Years ago there was such a thing as critical history books. They were critical reviews of a major film movement or era. The author(s) wanted to criticize certain periods of cinema but wanted to structure the book so it could encompass numerous ideas and trends. Thus the books were broken into shorter chapters about the individual ideas. This review will follow suit.

The Two Beliefs

The accepted conflict in There Will be Blood is with Daniel Plainview and the forces around him. His problems in the story come in numerous folds. The major one is his struggle with local Christians of a small town he goes to because of oil. Plainview disdains them for their arrogance because it impedes on his well being and business when he is trying to dig for oil. The second important conflict is with a supposed brother who shows up out of nowhere but has no real relationship to him. Itís just a man who knew his brother before he died. The third is with the illegitimate son Daniel grew to love as his own but disgraced him when he grew up to become an oil man himself and posed a threat to his business ventures.  The complexities of these entanglements has made for a film that people are applauding as rich and diverse. The truth is that their only one conflict within the film. The other two are just symptoms of Daniel Plainview himself.

Daniel, like the Christians, represents an institution of belief himself. His character really is the basis of the idea of nobility and aristocracy. Daniel believes the success he has in life and power he holds over everyone comes from inert qualities within him that no one outside of his bloodline possesses. His character represents an idea of power and just cause older than even religion itself. The film simplifies his meaning when it shows him as just God-less and semi-disturbed. That is how the townspeople of Little Boston view him. The film makes his problems with his supposed brother and illegitimate son to be signs of his evil when they are indicators of deeper beliefs a lot of people held back then. There Will be Blood takes no consideration of the deeper history to Danielís character and instead views all of his actions at such a close barometer that they are meant to outweigh its context.

The apology could be that Danielís characterization is a completely personal one. Whatever the rationalization may be it is the opposite of how Eli Sunday and the other townspeople are depicted. The film shows their belief and its meaning before it shows any of their distinguishing personal characteristics. Eli Sunday is a major character but all of his scenes are standard scenes of a preacher being a preacher. The only scene that stands out to show his character flaws is where he sits at the dinner table with his family, covered in mud, and insults his father for agreeing to a deal with Daniel Plainview that he himself originally thought was fair. The scene is indicative of the personal defeats Eli will meet later, but itís also the only scene that does it. In all the other scenes Eli Sunday represents the establishment of religion and God. He is a walking caricature of a religious man because his personal aspects are almost wholly removed.

The difference in how Eli Sunday and Daniel Plainview are shown is important. The two characters make up the dramatic center of the film. Danielís problems with his son, brother and business in Little Boston rise to a crescendo when he is baptized and asked to confess the sin of his abandoning his child. The event encapsulates the frustration Eli Sunday and Little Boston has with Daniel. Itís also the greatest burden for Daniel because it makes him say the things that strike hardest at his psyche. Danielís defeated baptism meets its own reclamation at the end of the film when Daniel forces Eli Sunday to admit he is a hypocrite and everything he said before was a power play instead of him voicing the word of God. Sunday stands firm in saying he was the voice of God, but admits he has been a liar and is the failure of his family. Tell tale signs before show Sunday had more interest in power than God. His final stand with Daniel revealed the nature of his character.

The relationship between Daniel and Eli goes even further than the dramatic principles. Their characters are both the symbolic representations of their respective beliefs and ideals. There Will be Blood is about both the personal and cultural clash that happens.  The societal comment is a significant part of the film. The film has to balance both elements when sculpting the portrait of the characters. The end result is a completely divided picture. The audience only knows Daniel for his personal demons and Eli for his religious extremism. The fact that the end hangs on Eliís ďdramaticĒ revelation is a joke. The scene is more explanatory than dramatic because it includes so much new information about Eli. It has to because it didnít have a character outline to base his demise off of.

Realism and Plot

Paul Thomas Anderson doesnít make a true classical epic with There Will Be Blood. He goes against many conventions of standard storytelling devices by not basing the film on methodical scenes and structure. Normally the focus of an epic is in building up environment, plot and character. Instead Anderson puts all his effort in a narrative that has a life of its own. The film flows at a pace that heightens the personal closeness of the major characters. We follow the characters before we understand the world around them. Scenes are drawn out to recreate the atmosphere of realism within the world. There Will Be Blood is closer to a dramatic rendition of a historical epic than a filmic one. The film has an amazing back drop that could have created a much lusher and more beautiful film, but Anderson commits himself to a realism platform in which to exhibit the characters.

Anderson isnít breaking new ground with this choice. The beginning of this kind of realism began in the 1970s with American films that were trying to venture into new arenas of storytelling. Films like A Woman Under the Influence, Mean Streets, Mikey and Nickey were beholden to the realities of the scene. John Cassavettes was the forerunner of this style and a product of avante garde theater. He was able to respect film art by using cinema verite methods, but he made films that were made to be shown in the realities of a theater setting. The stories were limited to shorter time frames and most of the scenes were long and realistic. It allowed for films to explore realism more, but the essentials of the style had to more to deal with the essentials of theater than film.

There Will be Blood represents the opposite extreme. It has a large story of dense personal history for the characters and a historical overview of the time period. It takes place over thirty years and deals with numerous objectives for a range of characters. It has everything that fits the description of a novel adaptation, namely a large plot. It is the antithesis of the realist platform because plot itself requires construction and meticulous design to allow all the strands of the story to unfold. There Will be Blood has numerous elements to attest to. Paul Sunday is only worth a scene at the beginning and a few mentions later on but his character becomes a bridge for an important revelation at the end of the film. A film focused on the construction of plot would not have allowed an important character to get such scant recognition throughout the story. This is a classical example of empty symbolism. A character becomes an important idea for a theme but has little existence within the story.

An epic in the realist format isnít impossible. Itís just that the story cannot be chronological. Doing so letís in all the historical and personal details that have little relevance to the themes. The realist story is based on the close encounters between characters so structural decisions are very important. The story has to be adjusted to spotlight the theme the best. The best example of a realist epic is The Deer Hunter. It is about friends torn apart in the midst of the Vietnam War. The bond and connection between them is outlined at an extended wedding scene at the beginning. The rest of the film is a cut back between horrendous moments in battle and fond memories of life and how it was before. The film could have detailed each characterís life out much more extensively, but kept their portraits within the context of the friendships. Keeping this portrait allowed us to frame the characterís lives within our memories of their happier moments. If the film was traditional it would have to be six hours long to satisfy our interest in each character.

There Will be Blood limited itself greatly by making the story chronological. It had themes and characters to relate to the audience. The choices the film made as it relates to dramatic conception and character lay out kept the film from realizing the full potential of its subject.  Paul Thomas Anderson had the chance to make a lot of progress and make a film of good art, but he made filmmaking choices that became standard affair of the overrated aspects of the art circuit.

A Default Style

There Will be Blood has to be given some due. It has a very deep dramatic identity but it does many things to try to escape easy categorization. Most filmmakers resent critics because they box their films into easy categorizations. As much as a lot of filmmakers complain publically, most do little about it filmically. They continue to make films that follow standard rules of storytelling. But filmmakers like Bertrand Tavernier have openly tried to defy the attempts of criticism to objectify by making films that have no consistency relevant to any recognized structure in filmmaking. Tavernier has been successful with this in such films like A Sunday in The Country and Safe Conduct. There Will be Blood also exists to defy structural recognition by taking a difficult subject and filming it with a style and tone that distinguishes it from any other film today.

It is hard to have a straight forward conversation about the style of There Will be Blood. When Robert Altman was asked to speak about his style (something most critics claim to easily recognize), he said he had no clue about the thought process to how he filmed stories. There Will be Blood has a few nods and references to Paul Thomas Andersonís other films, but the only recognizable development is the tone of the film being more important than the story. Boogie Nights has a lot of camera movements and shot techniques. It is also filled with elaborative editing patterns and flows at a brisk pace to keep up with the pace of a fast story filled with numerous characters and plot points. There Will be Blood has a much different construction around it. The film lingers through the story with few shot adjustment and very little editing techniques. The composition of the film is based on camera angles and a methodical tone. The actors have a lot of room for movement because the camera is always well centered, but many scenes donít end when the dialogue does. The camera continues on with the scene because the tone it creates within the film is the most important feature.

There Will be Blood is about a historical subject that is very familiar in American folklore. A very specific genre is recalled when one deals with the Old West and the development of land to suit technological innovation.  The Western genre began as the shoot Ďem up genre, but evolved to encompass most stories about the development of America west of the Mississippi River. John Ford gave the genre its aesthetic tone when he made the visuals of the land an essential character to all of his films. Robert Altman took that look deeper when he based the tone of the film on the realism of yesterday with McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Then Terrence Malick created an archetype in Days of Heaven with a tone of visualization so ambient and exalting of the landscape that his style became famous. Malick became synonymous with his work on the film that filmmakers who explored his style of visualization did so with the direct threat their work would be compared to how Malick set the original barometers.

Paul Thomas Anderson creates a style in There Will be Blood that is a mixture between McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Days of Heaven. Anderson wants the tone of the film to be observant and peaceful with respect to highlighting the landscape, but he also favors graceful movements of the camera to go in between the action and the scenes. The composition is remiscient of Days of Heaven while the movement goes back to Altmanís achievement with Mccabe. He isnít doing much out of the ordinary with this combination of tonal styles. Most Westerns of any ambition since then have taken on the personality of either Altman or Malickís achievements. Both films were that influential to later filmmakers. The surprise with Andersonís decision to mix his filmmaking with these two films is that the story in There Will be Blood has both too much story and action to be the best fit.

The first reason for the assertion of too much story in There Will be Blood has to deal the structures of the former two films. McCabe and Heaven are comprable to Paul Thomas Andersonís film only in the matter of realism, but opposites in almost every other way. Both really are poem-like expressionist works that rely very little on physical story but instead on color hues with the cinematography and tonal features in how camera investigates the story. When most films would bring the camera closer to the action, both of these films kept a distance in all the scenes. They were able to do so because the stories were simple and philosophical. When originally released, both were unique for being ambient character pieces in a time when realism constituted higher degrees of drama and violence. The easy comparison is that McCabe and Heaven reflected the wavelengths of Yasurijo Ozu when most other filmmakers embraced the tough drama of Akira Kurosawa.

The first situation with the style of There Will be Blood comes with the obscuring it does of numerous plot points through out the film. Plot points are nothing more than story and character references that help to spell out the details of the story. It gets a subplot from point A to B. Numerous examples are bound through out the film, but most glaring are scenes like when H.W. looks through Henryís diary and then mysteriously lights fire under his bed. What the audience sees H.W. sees in the diary gives no clue to why he does what he does. Itís revealed later on, but is just a random action at the time. Then there is the presence of Paul Sunday. Paul Dano plays both Eli and Paul Sunday, but itís never revealed they are twins. The casting was accidental in the first place but the film never tries to distinguish their differences or even make a theme out of the uniqueness they are twins. The story just goes on, but it does so with such scant characterization of Paul Sunday that the subplot is confusing. The film has a lot of information to convey to the audience but fails to do an adaquate job because better relaying it because that would force the film to deconstruct its lingering camera movements and provide a denser, more adaquate editing structure.

The second major problem with the style is how it expels the most dramatic scenes. The nature of the style is to be distant and reflective, but There Will be Blood has a confrontational force to it with a lot of scenes and moments. The purpose of editing and composition is to be able to gage the drama best when the action is heightened, but the film is sloppy at best and absurd at other major points. The easiest example is with the renunion of Daniel and H.W. Plainview after the latter was sent away. The scene begins in an open field. The camera shows their reunion in the distance, but instead of cutting closer to the scene when it becomes fiery, the camera continues to weave down an oil pipeline. It does this while the characters are having a troubling moment. The reason for this choice of filmmaking is to highlight the oil pipeline which Daniel later shows off to H.W. and also to show the new found distance between the characters. The problem is that highlighting the oil pipeline really has little significance to what matters in the scene. Then the shooting from a distance to show character distance is so elementary of a film technique it would be criticized in film schools if a student attempted to use it.

The other major example is with the final scene. Daniel Plainview and Eli Sunday start a troubling discussion that excalates to physical blows when Daniel attacks Eli in his bowling alley. His method of attack is to chase Eli around the room, throw different things at him and then finally beat him with a bowling pin until he is dead. The chase has Eli begging for mercy and hiding behind the front of the bowling frame while Daniel attacks him. Anderson does little to bring the camera closer to the confrontation. While Daniel is chasing Eli, the camera remains aloof. Even when Eli goes out of frame and hides and Daniel is severely hitting him, the camera remains aloof. The only major cut into the action the camera does is when it does a low angle pan up to Daniel and he smears some excrement onto the lens. Itís surprising Anderson chooses that technique of all things because when he has used it before it was always for expositional purposes to introduce new scenes and locations. It has little reason to be in a dramatic moment with exception to the smear on the lens. The feeling is that Anderson is just on a rotation of different film techniques to lay out the story. His concern is mainly about the tonal structures in the film.

There are numerous other examples of bad filmmaking decisions by Anderson. Only a DVD commentary could do justice to explain all the problems in the film. The style is so bad because it takes so many basic ideas of how to shoot a Western period piece and does so with little direction. The general assumption could be that Anderson looked at the backdrop of his story and made a film to look like other films that dealt with similar historical periods, but didnít know how to make the adjustments to fit into There Will be Blood.

Final Thoughts

Itís hard to sum up There Will be Blood. The film is driven by its loose ends and intensity. Critical comment about the film is so scattered that most are impressionistic jubiliations without being detailed and specific. There even isnít an agreed upon argument about how the film is good. The film is mostly relevant for its differences in look and feel from every other film out there.

My best summation comes with comparing There Will be Blood to another film. When The Passion of the Christ was released, it was done to notable controvery and heavy critical discussion. Social critics took exception of the film for its stereotypical image of Jews while historical critics demoted the film for its slim, almost irrevelant perspective of Catholicism. Film critics said the film tried to make up for its lack of variety in production skills with a high intensity to make the story more powerful.

There Will be Blood holds a similiar position with respect to all those subjects. The film is highly interesting, but succeeds on just a few levels of how we look at a film. It is irrelevant or clueless when other greater subjects are taken into consideration. The intensity or uniqueness of the film shouldnít be the sole reason it is considered a masterpiece.

children with angels:

--- Quote ---The film simplifies his meaning when it shows him as just God-less and semi-disturbed. That is how the townspeople of Little Boston view him. The film makes his problems with his supposed brother and illegitimate son to be signs of his evil when they are indicators of deeper beliefs a lot of people held back then. There Will be Blood takes no consideration of the deeper history to Danielís character and instead views all of his actions at such a close barometer that they are meant to outweigh its context.
--- End quote ---

I donít think we are given enough context to know what Little Boston as a whole believes at all, and certainly not enough to align that belief (whatever it might be) with how the film views Daniel. The fact that the film gives no history or context for him is I think entirely appropriate to the fascinatingly narrow point of view the film establishes, as I argue in my piece.


--- Quote ---Their characters are both the symbolic representations of their respective beliefs and ideals. There Will be Blood is about both the personal and cultural clash that happens.  The societal comment is a significant part of the film. The film has to balance both elements when sculpting the portrait of the characters. The end result is a completely divided picture.
--- End quote ---

I donít think itís useful to see these characters as symbolic representations. We can say that they reflect a number of impulses associated with elements of their society (or ours), but to say that they wholly represent them is a gross simplification, and doesnít stand up to what we see in the film. Though the movie has certain allegorical overtones, I think the temptation to read the entire film and its characters as allegory should be resisted. Whatever political commentary the film might be making is secondary to its situations and its characters, both of which certainly have clear political dimensions (as everything does), but neither of which is clear-cut, or constitute a political Ďstatementí. Thus, I donít think that the accusation that the film is divided in this way stands up, since I donít think it is trying to be a Ďcharacter pieceí, nor a Ďsocietal commentí picture. It contains elements of both (though its ability to be a traditional character study is again challenged by its point of view, as I argue), but its peculiar power comes partly from not being reducible to either.


--- Quote ---The fact that the end hangs on Eliís ďdramaticĒ revelation is a joke. The scene is more explanatory than dramatic because it includes so much new information about Eli. It has to because it didnít have a character outline to base his demise off of.
--- End quote ---

I donít see how you could argue that the final scene hangs on Eliís Ďrevelationí. To me it doesnít seem to be a revelation at all (if youíre talking about his renunciation of his faith), and the ending certainly doesnít hang on it: he has been forced to say what he says, and he is shaken by it, but itís not a revelation. If there is a revelation, it is of Daniel, and of how truly psychopathic his character is/has become. Again, my piece argues for why we havenít been given the context necessary to understand Eliís actions in the last scene in the way you suggest (or, indeed, to truly understand Danielís).


--- Quote ---An epic in the realist format isnít impossible. Itís just that the story cannot be chronological.
--- End quote ---

Iím not sure why youíre so concerned with the clash between the Ďepicí and the Ďrealist platformí (Iím also unsure of what you mean by the latter). From the loose way youíre using the word Ďrealismí I donít think it constitutes a specific mode that you can judge the filmís success or failure against. I also, incidentally, donít know how you could possibly argue that a Ďrealist epicí mustnít be chronological Ė if anything, non-linear narrative points towards non-Ďrealistí impulses.


--- Quote --- There Will be Blood has to be given some due. It has a very deep dramatic identity but it does many things to try to escape easy categorization. There Will be Blood also exists to defy structural recognition by taking a difficult subject and filming it with a style and tone that distinguishes it from any other film today.
--- End quote ---

It DOES escape easy categorization: thatís one of the reasons why itís so fascinating. It uses conventions and codes from recognizable sources Ė classical Hollywood westerns, revisionist 70s historical epics, political Ďmessage picturesí Ė but it isnít reducible to any of them, and finds a new and effective and powerful way of relating them. That to me is one of the hallmarks of a great film: using familiar contexts and modes and conventions intelligently, and also adding something new and powerful to them. This is something that the best classical Hollywood filmmakers did again and again with genre pictures, and Ė incidentally Ė something that great art has done since the beginning of time.


--- Quote ---There Will be Blood has a few nods and references to Paul Thomas Andersonís other films, but the only recognizable development is the tone of the film being more important than the story. The film lingers through the story with few shot adjustment and very little editing techniques. The composition of the film is based on camera angles and a methodical tone. The actors have a lot of room for movement because the camera is always well centered, but many scenes donít end when the dialogue does. The camera continues on with the scene because the tone it creates within the film is the most important feature.
--- End quote ---

I would need more specific examples before I knew what you were talking about here.


--- Quote ---Paul Thomas Anderson creates a style in There Will be Blood that is a mixture between McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Days of Heaven. Anderson wants the tone of the film to be observant and peaceful with respect to highlighting the landscape, but he also favors graceful movements of the camera to go in between the action and the scenes. The surprise with Andersonís decision to mix his filmmaking with these two films is that the story in There Will be Blood has both too much story and action to be the best fit.
--- End quote ---

I think here youíre trying to rationalize and compartmentalize the film into what it might have done rather than make an effort to understand what it actually does do. Yes, we can see that there are influences of Malick and Altman on this film, but Anderson is making a film that doesnít try to finally be like either of those filmmakersí works. He tells his story in such an original and fascinating way, whilst incorporating these influences, that to try to make it fit into the paradigms youíre attempting to force it into here makes little sense. You can only argue that the story isnít a good fit for the techniques of Malick or Altman if you think that the style of these directors is all heís trying to emulate, and they arenít: heís come up with a method of storytelling that is totally alien to them, and itís that that makes the movie so unique. Again, heís effortlessly de-familarizing things that we think we understand (e.g.: Hollywood Renaissance film styles) by placing them in another context (e.g.: the psychopathically tight point of view he sets up, as I argue for). This also relates to what you say later, here:


--- Quote --- The style is so bad because it takes so many basic ideas of how to shoot a Western period piece and does so with little direction. The general assumption could be that Anderson looked at the backdrop of his story and made a film to look like other films that dealt with similar historical periods, but didnít know how to make the adjustments to fit into There Will be Blood.
--- End quote ---

In one sense Iím surprised to see you resisting the creative impulses of a visionary filmmaker who is challenging convention, because this is something that you yourself often argue is necessary for great film art (and I, on the other hand, might resist); in another sense, I can see why you might, since you also value being able to understand and explain films in relation to existing and established paradigms. Could it be that youíre more open to experimentation when it has already been championed and explained by previous film theorists, rather than when faced by a new example of it that you have to confront alone?


--- Quote ---when H.W. looks through Henryís diary and then mysteriously lights fire under his bed. What the audience sees H.W. sees in the diary gives no clue to why he does what he does. Itís revealed later on, but is just a random action at the time.
--- End quote ---

H.W. setting fire to the shack almost certainly isnít motivated by what he reads in the diary. Someone intelligently pointed out in the Blood thread that he looks at the diary upside down, which suggests that he canít even read (as would be highly probable). Itís more likely that it comes from H.W.ís frustrated desire to communicate with the outside world (and his father in particular): he is acting out violently, recklessly Ė in fact, in a similar way to how the emotional/social cripple Daniel himself will later act out.


--- Quote ---Then there is the presence of Paul Sunday. Paul Dano plays both Eli and Paul Sunday, but itís never revealed they are twins. The casting was accidental in the first place but the film never tries to distinguish their differences or even make a theme out of the uniqueness they are twins. The story just goes on, but it does so with such scant characterization of Paul Sunday that the subplot is confusing. The film has a lot of information to convey to the audience but fails to do an adaquate job because better relaying it because that would force the film to deconstruct its lingering camera movements and provide a denser, more adaquate editing structure.
--- End quote ---

I make a case in my piece for why the Paul subplot, and many other subplots/ character motivations, etc. might be obfuscated.


--- Quote ---The camera shows their reunion in the distance, but instead of cutting closer to the scene when it becomes fiery, the camera continues to weave down an oil pipeline. It does this while the characters are having a troubling moment. The reason for this choice of filmmaking is to highlight the oil pipeline which Daniel later shows off to H.W. and also to show the new found distance between the characters. The problem is that highlighting the oil pipeline really has little significance to what matters in the scene.
--- End quote ---

OF COURSE the pipeline has significance for the scene: it conveys the essential conflict at the heart of the film: Danielís relationship to others and his relationship to his work/capital! The film is continually stylistically powerful and economical in this way: to capture the essence of what a scene is about through camera placement, etc.


--- Quote ---Itís hard to sum up There Will be BloodÖ Critical comment about the film is so scattered that most are impressionistic jubiliations without being detailed and specific. There even isnít an agreed upon argument about how the film is good.
--- End quote ---

I agree that critical reaction to the film in general has been very vague in its reasons for lauding the movie; I suggest some reasons for this, and suggest some more specific reasons for why we might praise the film, in my piece. Intensity and uniqueness alone might not be reasons why the film is a masterpiece, but those elements combined with a consummate cinematic intelligence towards its storytelling, thematically fascinating situations, technical brilliance on almost all levels (sound design, music, production design, cinematography, editing), and the ability to make something new and relevant out of established conventions point the film well on its way to masterpiece status. It is indeed hard to sum up There Will Be Blood: could this be one of the reasons why youíre reacting negatively towards it?

EDIT: P.S - Please people, someone other than just GT respond to stop this becoming a duologue between me and him. This is such an extraordinary film, and particularly one that a lot of us have a particular personal stake in: it makes so much sense that we should discuss it, celebrate it, criticise it in some depth. If nothing else, this is surely a big part of what this board is for: to be a platform for sharing ideas about films that we care deeply about...

(Yeah, a bit drunk: deal with it!)

Alexandro:
the word epic is used by studios as a marketing device. dumb people think it means big or something. critics are mostly lazy and have used that word to describe "big" films for years now. i don't think there will be blood isn't an epic. but it's not an epic as critics are implying. it is an internal epic. an epic of the mind of it's main character, and in that it succeeds.

i read a review of this film talking about, like plainview himself, there will be blood "doesn't like to explain itself". i thought that was a stroke of genius, and everything you say in your essay (children with angels) rings true to me in that respect. it is a subjective film with a narrowed point of view, and the way it surrenders itself to it is masterful. as you, i find a lot of what GT says strangely lacking of arguments. i dont' know where the affirmation of the town's people feelings towards daniel come from, and i don't understand how the film presents daniel plainview only as an evil, godless individual. in my view is way more complex than that. I also wouldn't call Plainview semi disturbed. Heīs more in the totally pretty disturbed realm.

I resent critics trying to taŮl of this characters (Paul and Daniel) as some sort of heavy symbols. Nothing in PTA's previous works suggests he's the kind of filmmaker to go that way, and this is certainly no exception. The idea is toyed around, but the film's main concern lies within the idioscinracies of Plainview. Also, I never felt a "revelation" in Eli's last scene. It made total sense and felt just like a normal progressionl There was nothing surprising about it. Eli was established as a weak soul from moment one.

This idea of what should be chronological and what not is just...i don't know....it doesn't make sense from a creative point of view. It seems to be some sort of undeclared rule on how to do things that I particularly wouldn't find useful in any case.

What I don't agree with is with the supposed groundbreaking new thing PTA is doing here. I think There Will Be Blood is a masterpiece, but is nothing new under the sun either. Radical, yes; beautifullyu shot and acted, yes. A new paradigm? No...The psychpathic angle Children with Angels discuss, and which is a great asset on a fantastic film, is just another way of turning the subjective experience into an entertaning movie. Is no different than what Scorsese has been doing, from Taxi Driver to The Aviator, or a lot of other major directors have done in the past.

Daniel Day Lewis said in an interview that Paul Thomas Anderson "is the story he's telling". Every worthy artist aims for that. But not everyone can achieve it with such eloquency. That's the charm right there. His movies are a window to his soul and to himself. The power comes from that.

Gold Trumpet:
I'm going to get to Children With Angels, because he does have a few things to say, but first.....


--- Quote from: Alexandro on April 10, 2008, 04:55:26 PM ---i read a review of this film talking about, like plainview himself, there will be blood "doesn't like to explain itself". i thought that was a stroke of genius, and everything you say in your essay (children with angels) rings true to me in that respect. it is a subjective film with a narrowed point of view, and the way it surrenders itself to it is masterful. as you, i find a lot of what GT says strangely lacking of arguments. i dont' know where the affirmation of the town's people feelings towards daniel come from, and i don't understand how the film presents daniel plainview only as an evil, godless individual. in my view is way more complex than that. I also wouldn't call Plainview semi disturbed. Heīs more in the totally pretty disturbed realm.

--- End quote ---

I imply that the characterization of Daniel is overly simple, but I don't limit myself to that. I also go into detail about the deeper signs that are layered through out the film about Daniel's deeper personas. Yes, he's troubled. Yes, he's disturbed, but that's an obvious observation. It's just pointing out the most surface level actions you see in the film. Eli Sunday's characterization is with total reference in which to the times he comes from. You can keep the structure and look of the film as is and still make reference to Daniel's historical relevance and his belief.

I don't buy the legitimacy of the narrow viewpoint argument. If you look at Daniel through a tunnel vortex and put his personal experience as yours, you get an alien character of zero personal resemblance to yourself. The whole point of movies that are tunnel versions of the personal experience is that they speak to your experience. The stories are suppose to be experiences of the modern man. Bernard Shaw said that a work of art should only last 100 years, as times change and so do the perspective of people. Daniel represents a dead culture. He represents an old ideal. There is nothing personal to get out of his viewpoint so the whole point of making his experience personal is to find some way to tie it to our perspective. The film does no such thing. He comes and leaves as an alien character. Thus the important thing to do is to give him some historical perspective so he gets context for our understanding. 

Filming this dead character to match the closeness of a personal experience has zero value. I do not believe that just countering narrative expectations is in itself good. It's an easy thing to change the gears of how a story is told. The important thing is what is told. There Will be Blood makes tonal choices to make the film unique, but it does nothing to make the narrative important or stand out.


Alexandro:
I think the way you look at this character is overtly simple, but not the way the film presents it. I resent reviews that describe him as a monster, a "movie villain for the ages" and things like that, because that's too easy. He's much more complicated than that. I'm not gonna repeat what Children with Angels already said, because he said it so well. My feelings towards the complexity of Plainview are expressed beautifully on his essay. The fact that the film accomplishes this and at the same time maintains the narrow point of view you don't buy makes Day Lewis's performance even more remarkable. I think that me and many other persons have found Plainview to be more than just disturbed, or "evil", or "troubled"...my guess is if we thought that we wouldn't find him or the film so interesting.

I still don't know exactly where in the movie is shown or even suggested how the people around Little Boston really saw Daniel Plainview. The only time someone talks about him in his abscense is when Eli screams at his father. The only one who expresses an opinion on him is Eli.

I understand both Plainview and Eli live in a context, and their status as symbols is certainly present. PTA has said when confronted with this that he's "no dummy", but it's obvious from him and the film itself he's not that concerned with that. He's way more interested in the personality of Plainview than anything else. Eli is explored only to the extent that his doings affect Plainview. He's only fleshed out from the point of view of Plainview. We mostly see him as Plainview sees him. This is nothing new, no breaking of any barriers here, and it's not a mistake or miscalculation from the filmmakers part either.

Coming back to Plainview and the "narrow" point of view, talking about myself I must say I felt a lot of emphaty with this character. His actions seemed weird only on first viewing. By my third time I began to understand better where he's coming from. You don't need to be shown the full story or to have the full context to understand human behavior. He's not alien at all. But of course, you have to try to understand with the information the film gives you. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is great to have that chance as an audience member. His experience is tied to our perspective. At least to mine. This the film achieves. It hasn't achieved it with you I guess. I still don't get why he is a dead culture or an old ideal, though...his main problems and concerns are atemporal, he's just a human being after all. I, for one, was relieved that PTA didn't spend too much time "explaining" us the culture and the context. He's never done that before in any other film. He didn't do it in Boogie Nights and yet you understand enough of it. He has always been more interested in the individuals than in societies.

We all know no one is going to convince you of anything else, of course.

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