There Will Be Blood
Upton Sinclair and Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007
I will be so happy when the project I've been working on for the past
fifteen months is finally finished, one way or another, and I can write
about it openly. In the meantime, please enjoy some circumlocutions.
So there's a certain scene I've occasionally advocated adding to the
script. The objection I have received in reply is that while it'd be
fine in a book, film is too economical a medium for the scene I had in
mind. In a book, the argument goes, I might have a thousand brushstrokes
in which to capture the relationship between the characters in question.
In a movie, I have, like, five. So the one I had in mind can't be one
of them, because it'd carry an inordinate amount of weight. Save it for
the book, where it'll be surrounded by so much other stuff that it won't
My main objection to There Will Be Blood is that, in this respect,
it seems to be trying to be a novel. There's just so much stuff in it that
none of it carries much weight. What is this movie about? I read some
reviews and the best synopsis I found was by
Vern, who said that
"this is about an oil tycoon named Plainview, his little son, some preacher,
relationships, and that type of shit." The bravura final scene suggests
that we're supposed to see the movie as having been a struggle of wills
between Plainview and the preacher — capitalism vs. religion,
maybe — but the preacher only has a scattering of scenes! Certainly
this rivalry doesn't carry any more weight than the thread about Plainview's
relationship with his son, or even with his brother (who shows up out of
nowhere and takes up a big chunk of screen time in the middle of the
movie). I watched this with Elizabeth and she thought that it was going
to be about how Plainview is warped and the community is wrecked by the
misery and devastation that surround extractive industries — and I
probably would have liked the movie a lot more had it focused on that.
But it didn't really focus on anything.
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