Friday, April 26, 2013

The Cinematic Experience - There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood, 2007

Hello there Lovelies!

When I decided to read Oil!, I made peace with the fact that I was going to have to watch the movie adaptation, There Will Be Blood which was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.  I believe I saw this shortly after it was released on DVD - and HATED it!  While I was reading Oil! I must admit that Dad was my favorite character and I was looking forward to rewatching this movie even less since I could not remember being able to find any redeeming qualities in Daniel Day Lewis' portrayal of him.  To my utter amazement, in it's second viewing, I truly enjoyed this movie!  How the hell did that happen??

Watch the trailer here
May I present to you, for your listening pleasure while you read this post, Brahms' Violin Concerto in D Major which plays during the end credits of the film - it is truly a gorgeous piece.

There Will Be Blood is VERY different from Oil!.  Anderson has stated that he only incorporated the first 150 pages of the novel, using Sinclair's settings and a few of the major characters as inspiration and then made his own movie.  I like that he focused on the oil and the greed and left the political climate of the time out of his film, but the compassion and likability of Dad is absent in the last half of this version.  In Upton Sinclair's novel, our protagonist was Bunny (who in the film is named H.W. Plainview), but the film focuses on Daniel Plainview instead.  H.W. in this adaptation is an orphan who Plainview raises as his own son after the man who found him is killed in an accident in one of his early oil wells.  The film opens with him prospecting in the late 1800's, but the story really gets going with a meeting for a prospective lease - during the same trip that opens the novel.  Plainview sells himself as a family man, and you can see the close relationship that he has with the child, but in a tragic accident while drilling in Little Boston (the film's version of Paradise), H.W. loses his hearing.  This event effectively ends this relationship and Plainview sends the boy away to a special school in San Francisco.  The relationship is over, and it is clear that it is the event that forever hardens this man.  What I thought was a brilliant choice by Anderson, who both wrote and directed the film, is that the first 14 minutes and 30 seconds has no dialogue, which is a nice foreshadowing to H.W. losing his hearing.

The first words we hear are at the meeting in Signal Hill where Plainview introduces himself to both his audience at the meeting and the audience of the film.  "Ladies and Gentlemen, I've traveled over half our state to be here tonight...I'm a family man - I run a family business. This is my son and my partner, H.W. Plainview. We offer you the bond of family that very few oilmen can understand." While he ultimately walks away from this prospective lease, just like in the novel, it is here that we see Paul for the first, and only, time.  Instead of being a major character like in Oil!, here he seeks out Plainview to let him know (for a price) of oil on the land where he grew up - where is family still lives.  This takes the film to Little Boston where the father and son visit under the pretense of quail hunting, find oil, and purchase all the land they can lay their hands on.  The introductory speech to the people of this community is amazing - and as I have learned, was completely improvised by Daniel Day Lewis.  It is very easy to see how these people believed the promises that he made to them.

Little Boston is where the bulk of this very long film takes place...where Sinclair's novel is 540 pages long, Anderson's film is over 2 1/2 hours long!  Here is where the relationship between father and son disintegrates after H.W. loses his hearing, where Plainview amasses more oil than he could ever dream of, and where he ultimately loses any vestiges of his humanity.  "I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people...there are times when I look at people and I see nothing worth liking. I want to earn enough money that I can get away from everyone...I've built up my hatred little by little."  It is at an oil meeting that we see him completely lose it for the first, but definitely not the last, time.  "Did you just tell me how to run my family? One night I'm going to come to you inside your house, or wherever you're sleeping, and I'm going to cut your throat... You don't tell me about my son!"

After sending his son away, Plainview is in a vulnerable place and easily accepts a man who shows up, claiming to be his brother, Henry, into his life.  He grows very close to Henry very quickly and wants him to become his business partner, but that all changes when it is revealed he is an impostor and Daniel puts a gun up to 'Henry's' head and kills him.  Plainview is once more alone with his oil - the way he will remain throughout his life.

A peripheral story line in the novel that I skimmed over in my book review was that of Eli and the issue of religious fanaticism.  While the film did not include any of the politics, it focused in on the religious fervor of the time.  Eli Sunday (Paul's brother) is a preacher and 'healer' that the community follows and embraces.  In the novel however, he is portrayed as a Jim Bakker type, a man who sought celebrity with religion.  In the novel, Eli was financed/created by those with deep pockets.  'One of these disciples was an eminent judge, and another was a proprietor of a chain of grocery stores: their wives had taken Eli in hand and rubbed off the rough spots and improved his grammar...also they had taught him where to get his clothes and how to hold a knife and fork, so that Eli was becoming a social success...One evening they all went to see Eli; in a great tent such as would hold a three ring circus, with thousands of cars parked in the fields about.'  While this character in the novel creates his own religion and becomes a national celebrity, the film version of Eli operates on a much smaller scale.  Unfortunately, in the film, Eli does not fare nearly as well as he does in the novel and materializes in the last scene of the film, visiting Plainview in his opulent mansion, begging for money.

The ending of the film is spectacular!  We see the man that Daniel Plainview has become - wealthy, lonely, angry, and vindictive.  The entire film is stunning - the look is gritty and real and very well researched.  Anderson was very concerned with the accuracy of the end result and if you watch the special features on the double disc version of this movie, it is remarkable how he was able to take old photographs and recreate them on film.  Little Boston was filmed in rural Texas, but the last few scenes were filmed inside Greystone Mansion which was the residence that Edward Doheny, Sr. built for Edward Doheny, Jr.  This is one of my favorite places in the world and I plan on a future tie-in post on this property in the future.  The choice of this setting reiterates the fact that Doheny was a major influence of both the Dad character in the novel and the Plainview character in the film.  This is my dream house, so pay close attention when you watch this film.  The very last scene takes place in the underground bowling alley.  In all the filming that has been done in and around the mansion for films, television, and music videos (here is a partial list of the films), this was the first time that the bowling alley had ever utilized; and we can thank Anderson for its full restoration.  It is in this bowling alley that the most iconic scene of the film takes place - it is here that Eli asks Plainview for money and Daniel Day Lewis' performance is pure brilliance.  I won't show you the VERY end of the film, but after Plainview humiliates Eli and forces him to profess that he is a false prophet, he gloats that he's been able to siphon the oil from land adjacent to his...and then the iconic milkshake line is delivered.

This film was nominated for eight Oscars including Best Picture, which it did not win, but Daniel Day Lewis won for Best Actor and Robert Elswit won for Best Cinematography.  It truly is a phenomenal film and if you did not enjoy it the first time around, I would definitely suggest you give it another try!

What did you think, Lovelies?  Did you enjoy the film as a whole or perhaps just the phenomenal performance that Daniel Day Lewis gave?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Happy Viewing!!

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