"The fact that we can think with certain films, and not simply about them, is the irrefutable sign of their value" - Nicole Brenez

Sunday, 6 April 2014


Daniel Plainview

The title “There will be blood” can evoke several reactions at the same time… for a devout Christian, this title brings forth images of Christ on the cross, the crucifixion and the shedding of his holy blood that led to the salvation of humanity. From another angle, there will be blood implies a lot of war  and blood-shedding…and so on. Whatever the case, the title “There will be blood” captures the attention of the audience and makes them curious to find out just what the film is about.
True to the promise of a catchy, almost ambiguous title, the makers of this 138 minutes drama, Paul Thomas Anderson and his crew do not disappoint. Set in the period between 1898 and 1927, “There will be blood” tells the story of Daniel, a middle-aged man who struggles through life working on oil drills. Because of the nature of the technology that is available at the time, the conditions under which they work, Daniel and his comrades suffer through so many hazards. Daniel eventually succeeds but because of his mean nature and disillusioned personality, probably due to a sad and murky past, the wealth he accrues does very little to improve him as a man.

The turning point of Daniel from a silver miner to an oil miner occurs when he is given information about the existence of an oil rich field, which together with his adopted son, he set out to go and buy. The plot of the film then takes numerous twists and turns: the disintegration of his relationship with his son who is a major part of Daniel's life and the object of his care despite his cruel and insensitive self, is a major turn in the film. This and other twists lead us to the final resolution in the film.

One aspect of the narrative that stands out from the very beginning of the film is the scant dialogue. It is actually silent throughout the first fourteen minutes of the film, something that the audiences hardly notice thanks to the creative and clear cinematography. This kind of beginning tends to fasten the audience to the seat because of the ambition to follow closely through the scenes and find out what lies ahead. An aspect of style which is used in the film is the aligning of two scenes at the same time. For example, when Daniel is addressing the group of people below the constructed drill while at the same time we see the ordinary goings on in the film. What this does, is to totally engage the audience as they move back and forth with the story.

As I mentioned earlier, the crew did a splendid job with the location, the costumes and props.  In the era between 1892-1902, the technological know-how of that time is represented extremely well. Historically speaking, there was not much available at the time in terms of technological tooling and most of the instruments that were used were almost manual through and through. Electric power too was underdeveloped as electricity was yet to set in. All these aspects are well represented in the film. When we first meet Daniel at the silver mine, we notice he uses a ladder made of wood despite how obviously weak it is. This is soon confirmed when the wooden ladder breaks and sends him tumbling down to the bottom leaving him with a broken leg. Later when they are drilling, we also notice that their working conditions are extremely unsafe, a fact that makes the film very relevant and believable.

Children characters, especially if developed fully in a piece of work, can represent an antithesis within the narrative, the possibility of a different future. Daniel’s son, having grown up in the shadows of the wrangles that characterized his childhood, is now out to bring change which he eventually does when he marries Mary, his childhood friend. This marriage is a beginning, the coming together of two previously opposing sides as they will be settling down somewhere different, far from their memories. This could symbolize the fresh start that the young couple, and the society as a whole metaphorically speaking, seeks.

I may have missed something but Daniel as a character strikes me as unexplained. Why is he filled with so much hate to the point of killing and doing many other heinous crimes in life? I totally appreciate how he ended up because in most societies, evil clears itself and this is the same message that “There will be blood” sends across with the way Daniel turns out.
In conclusion, let me say that “There will be blood” is a film that is worth the time of the audience because of the captivating way in which the story has been told, the timeless themes that the filmmaker explores such as capitalism and religion are convincingly rendered by the cinematography.

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