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What a year 2007 was for epic movies! When I watched “There will be Blood” for the first time on its theatrical release, I decided I did not want to write about it on the blog before I had watched it a second time. I had the clear urge to treat this film the same way I would treat a painting or sculpture: appreciate, savour, digest, revisit. I keep saying that about movies: why do they usually not get the proper “art treatment”. A movie of 158 minutes has 9480 seconds times 24 images / second – 227,520 images altogether, and I am supposed to take it all in in one go, without a chance of going back, stopping it, looking at the details??? The imagery of this film is stunningly beautiful, from the gritty digging in oily wells at the beginning, over exploding derricks, calm seaside sceneries or wide-angle encounters between father and abandoned son. There are very few directors and DPs who have the ability to create such a mass of beautiful images without seeming artificial, guilty of mannerism and annoying the viewer with its context-free beauty. P. Thomas Anderson and Robert Elswit are different, they can make the images serve the characters, create personal distance through camera distance, they can show us the awe the workers and David Plainview feel when the oil bursts through the ground, because to them it is as religious as they will ever get, and the images reflect that and the audience in the cinema is as stunned by the raw beauty of the events as is the audience standing in front of the well.

Is Daniel Day-Lewis over-acting it? I don’t think so, watching this performance is painful at times, but that is because the Plainview character is such an eerie one. He plays jovial, but is cold at heart, he is vicious in pursuing his aims, business and family alike. He uses a façade to sell himself as an entrepreneur, and he uses the same façade to act into his family, i.e. towards his son. Only catastrophe can cause him to become natural, emotional, but then again, he is not in control of his emotions, he is victim to his rage and sorrow.

The film does not leave much room for many characters next to mighty Daniel Plainview: even his key opponent, Eerie Eli of the Third Resurrection Church, is overwhelmed by the brute presence of the Oil Man. But Eli is needed, Plainview needs him to project his rage and disgust, and to blame all the emptiness of his heart at somebody. Eli is disappointingly weak, I am sure Plainview would have desired are more worthy opponent than this false prophet, but he takes them down where he finds them, be it the priest or the fake brother or the Union Oil representative. He is drinking their milk shakes, all of them, but as if he was suffering from tapeworm he stays hungry and dissatisfied and empty all towards the end.

Fantastic movie, and don’t get me started about the ending. Dear Roger Ebert, this ending is the way it has to be!

One Comment

  1. I loved the ending. Really loved it.

    In fact the whole film is fantastic. It is one of very few films I’ve watched where I’ve seen it, then watched it again next day because I had to see it again.

    Excellent review!

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