REQUIEM FOR A FILM: TWBB a Review of Power, Wealth and Insanity
Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic re-imagining of the 1926 novel Oil! (Sinclair), showcases Daniel Day Lewis’s Oscar winning turn as the greed obsessed, Daniel Plainview. Upon my first viewing of this film I felt frightened. The possibility that someone could become so engulfed in finding and establishing power, truly astounded me. A popular example of a zeitgeist in the 20th and 21st centuries, power and wealth go hand in hand.
Plainview is a cunning and malicious man from the very beginning. He manipulates his son H.W as we as an audience are allowed to see straight through his transparent plan of presenting himself as a pseudo family man. The first half of the three-hour decline into madness is a build-up. A sort of entrée into the main course. Within the first hour, a fire is started on the site, causing not only his son to go deaf from the explosion, but for all the construction they were working on to be destroyed. Rather than becoming distraught, Plainview realises the grandiose of the fire and what it really means; oil. Plainview’s insanity is realised and Thomas Anderson’s genius direction is really amplified as Plainview begins to laugh and grin, the ginormous burnt orange flames flickering in his eyes.
There Will Be Blood is a long film. Okay, long may be an understatement. But it really is a journey that pays off once the climaxing scene is viewed. I won’t spoil it for anyone but there is a reason Day Lewis won his second best actor Oscar for this role. His fierce obsession with power and wealth can be seen in his every move. From when he deceives an entire church in order to gain more land, to when he stunningly finishes the film in a brilliant and monstrous fashion, every shot is pure, unaltered brilliance. Eventually, he develops into a ghastly character, with Thomas Anderson treating his audience to witnessing Plainview’s downward spiral. His sickening transformation almost urges us to root for him, secretly makes us hoping he will be the most evil and treacherous character in Anderson’s repertoire. Similar to Anderson’s 2012 The Master, Joaquin Phoenix portrays a man with an unravelling sense of psyche. Unlike Phoenix’s character Freddie Quell, Daniel Plainview is a power obsessed man unhinged with reality.
Perhaps the most brilliant and yet most utterly terrifying factor in the 2007 masterpiece is the fact that an obsession with power and wealth is not just fictional. Indeed, other popular fictional accounts of stable men turning into monsters over a dream of superiority have been apparent into today’s society. AMC’s cult hit Breaking Bad is one man’s tale of a dying, harmless school teacher turned into a murderous and ruthless crime and drug lord. Similar to Plainview, Walter White exhibits a no-excuses, get the job done type of attitude, with the main goal being money. And with money, comes great responsibility.
In reality, AMC and Thomas Anderson aren’t too far off. Currently a worldwide man hunt is being held for Abubakar Shekau. The Islamic Terrorist and control of the 2014 operation behind kidnapping 223 Christian schoolgirls in Nigeria. Shekau wishes to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria and introduce Sharia Law. Plainview and Shekau are complete polar opposites in their aim, but both are hungry for power, with Plainview lusting for money whilst Shekau dreams of implementing his own beliefs. The Rothschilds, a centuries old family built on a foundation of power and wealth, control every main bank in every country. Yes, that’s right. The mostly European dynasty own even Australia’s largest banks. But according to My First Class Life, the Rothschild’s power is more sinister than what it seems. The article talks of incest rumors, multiple conspiracy theories and going as far as saying the family believe to be “above all lawmakers” (2015). Giving the immense amount of power this family have, they are not difficult rumors to believe.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s excellent imagining of a man veering into madness stays with you long after the credits roll. I remember sitting in my room in awe, grinning to myself like the cool 19 year old I truly am. I was mesmerized. I still am a few years on. Not only is Day Lewis’s turn as Plainview inspiring to anyone who has a remote interest in film, it is also an eye opener, a warning of sorts. A warning that with the right amount of power and the wrong man, things can go disastrously wrong.