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“There Will Be Blood” by Paul Thomas Anderson Essay (Movie Review)

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Updated: Jun 15th, 2022

Introduction

Loosely based on the 1927 novel Oil written by Upton Sinclair, There Will Be Bloodshot by Paul Thomas Anderson is a movie that depicts people and their personalities. The setting of the movie takes place on the West Coast oil fields at the beginning of the nineteenth century where Daniel Plainview, the oil prospector, becomes very rich and then has to pay the price for his fortune. The following analysis of the film will show the relationship between the presentation form of There Will Be Blood and its story.

Narrative

From the very beginning of the movie, the viewer can be certain that he or she is into something unique and unusual. The first ten minutes do not feature any dialogues instead Anderson chose to show several sequences that depict Daniel Plainview’s journey from the silver miner into and greedy businessman, accompanied by the electronic score performed by Johnny Greenwood. The first dialogue lines of the film and then, subsequently, the last lines of the film, belong to Plainview (“Critical Analysis: There Will Be Blood” par. 3).

Despite the fact that the narrative of the film follows the rise and the fall of a businessman, it is far from the typical “poor boy made good” ideology since the main character is not a good or moral person in any sense, regardless of the admirable traits of his character. In addition, there can be traced some similarities to the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche since Plainview also critiques Christian ideologies (Murray par. 2).

Cinematography

When it comes to the cinematographic analysis of There Will Be Blood, there is a clear contrast between dark and light tones that enhance the overall tone of loneliness and fear. Paul Thomas Anderson chose to use the juxtaposition of darkness and light to make sure that the scenes remain the memory of viewers like “frozen flashlight trails” (Stephenson par. 10).

The majority of the scenes in There Will Be Blood were shot using high-speed anamorphic lenses on the Panavision XL camera and thirty-five-millimeter film. At all costs, the director avoided using zoom lenses and preferred to use although more expensive but slower setups. For shooting the scenes with fire, the director was keen on using real fire and the reverse the shots of actors watching it burn. The heat from the real flames was no doubt felt by actors and encouraged a much more detailed and physical performance (Picone par. 14).

Mise-En-Scène

Paul Thomas Anderson showed the mentalities and characteristics of the two main characters of the movie, Eli Sunday and the already mentioned Daniel Plainview. Eli Sunday is depicted as the false prophet and a charlatan that uses Christian doctrines to go through life with lies and crafty schemes. Plainview is a hardworking although brute businessman that stands out due to his hatred towards humanity. To analyze the mise-en-scène of There Will Be Blood, particular scenes from the film are to be analyzed.

Whiskey Glasses

The first scene in question was the one when Eli brought three whiskey glasses for Daniel and himself. The director’s camera is lowered to show Plainview, who is sitting next to bowling balls. The importance of this scene was in the fact that Eli bent down to give Daniel the glass, serving him. This portrayed Plainview as a powerful figure and Sunday as a servant who in the course of the film only presented himself as the servant of God; however, in this scene, he treats Daniel like God. When Eli offers whiskey to Daniel, he rejects it with a hand wave. Despite the fact that Plainview loved whiskey, his rejection of the drink has two reasons. The first reason was that Plainview was to have a conversation with his enemy and being sober was crucial while the second reason was in that the drink was blessed by the charlatan-prophet. Thus, by saying no to the drink, Daniel also said no to believing in God as well as declining the manner of being treated like God.

“I Am Finished”

The last scene of the movie depicted Plainview that killed Sunday sitting next to the dead body and muttering the words “I am finished.” This scene has been greatly discussed in the cinematographic circles and the one that bears controversial meaning. The lack of emotions that Plainview expressed while saying these words meant that the character was tired however satisfied. Such an ending for the movie was supported by the Darwinian theory of evolution or, in this case, devolution: there is no vacant time or space for thoughts and feelings. In this ending scene, the main character of Daniel Plainview was figuratively no longer a human being because animalistic instincts overcame him and subsequently became a representation of the value for the credibility of the mise-en-scène. The masterful manner in which Paul Thomas Anderson chose to present the ending of his film added to its coherence, making the whole picture untarnished and unified. Furthermore, this was the reason why the director chose to use less music toward the end of the movie – the Darwinian devolution did not need any score, and, thus, the same occurs in the cinematographic representation of the movie (Vahdani par. 32). Thus, through the analysis of the simple scene from There Will Be Blood, it is evident that every component of the film bears a particular meaning which is not evident from the first viewing.

Conclusion

The analysis of There Will Be Blood has shown that the narrative and the themes presented in the movie correlate with the way the movie is shot and presented to the viewer. Despite the fact that the main character Daniel Plainview has a complex character, and despite the fact that the themes of religion, greed, violence, hatred, and fear are extensively discussed throughout the course of the movie, the director managed to present them in a way that is compelling to the viewers. This movie is not perfect in any way, with its unbending characters or relentlessness, it may not be understandable for many. However, these imperfections are what makes There Will Be Blood unique and with the reach that exceeds its grasp (Ebert par. 10).

The exploration of the movie’s mise-en-scène has shown that the cinematographic choices the director made all have a particular meaning, for instance, the final scene that depicts the main character who killed another person is related to the Darwinian theory of evolution, but in reverse. Instead of becoming a human from an animal, the character figuratively transformed into an animal, driven by wild instincts. Thus, there are many themes that go through the movie in a thin red line, and the way Paul Thomas Anderson chose to present them is memorable, although very controversial.

Works Cited

2010. Web.

Ebert, Roger. Reviews: There Will Be Blood. 2008. Web.

Murray, Terri. 2016. Web.

Picone, Jack. 2015. Web.

Stephenson, Hunter. 2008. Web.

Vahdani, Alireza. 2011. Web.

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