Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #207 on the list,. For a longer introduction to this series and a look at the full list, just click here. And if you want a heads-up on what I’ll be watching for next week in case you want to watch along, just head on over to the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are in the sidebar) where I’ll generally be posting that info later in the day.
There is blood, and there is oil, and there is greed, and there is religion, and there is revenge, and there is pride.
There is so, so much pride.
Interestingly, Paul Thomas Anderson‘s There Will Be Blood is one of the most recent of all of the movies on this list, making it, I suppose, what one would deem an “instant classic”. And perhaps there is some value in asking if it is too soon for a real long-standing value judgement to be placed on a movie like this. However for now I am going to let that discussion pass, and simply say that in my own opinion, this is a film that will succeed in passing the test of time.
Clearly, Anderson is one of those directors who not only understands film, but he understands both his actors and his audience, and knows how to get the actions he needs from the first and the reactions he desires out of the second. Anderson has set out to make a film of epic scale, and he has succeeded in a way that few before him have managed, and I have no doubt that his is a name that, as the years go on, we will see even more times on this list.
So what is it that makes this movie stand out so much? I suspect that a lot of it is because in the end, this movie is truly a great traditional tragedy. It is a film that takes its central character’s main flaw and builds upon it so well that it’s ending, while shocking (and yes, bloody) in retrospect seems inevitable, and even though Plainview may come through the experience alive in body, it is obvious that he will never again be the man that he thought he was, nor that he wanted to be.
So what is this “main flaw” that I mentioned? Well, in Plainview’s case it is pride. Or perhaps it is actually a search for pride or at least for accomplishment and recognition that is equal to the pride that he wants to feel within himself. It’s that longing, that yearning, that need for everyone else to say “Yes, you are better then me, yes, you got the better part of this deal, yes, you are stronger, smarter, richer than I am.” that drives his every move, whether good or evil. And because he needs that external praise, rather than being able to generate or accept those feelings internally, Plainview is never going to be satisfied, never going to be really happy.
Even at the end of the film, when Plainview has seemingly even conquered God himself in the form of the preacher Eli, he is left a whimpering mess, and even though he declares to his butler “I’m finished..”, one is left to wonder whether the statement is literal or figurative, because, of course, for a man like Plainview the question remains: now that he has “killed God”, what can be next? Will even that be enough to finally fulfill his ambitions? And if not, then what will it take?
Obviously, the cinematography throughout the film is outstanding, and the performances, from Daniel Day-Lewis on down are superb. Anderson manages to draw the most out of every performance and performer, and his deft hand shows a maturity that was only hinted at in his first feature, Hard Eight (which I only recently watched and really enjoyed) and seemingly found it’s full fruition in 2012’s The Master. Personally, Anderson is a director that has me really looking forward to seeing what he’s going to do next, and hoping has a very long and fruitful career.
As always, here’s the trailer:
So what are your thoughts on There Will Be Blood? Is it a movie that you’ve seen or would like to? If you have seen it, is it one that would make your own Top 10 list? Or would it not even crack your Top 250? Also, I’m curious about what you think about my argument that some movies simply have to be seen on the big screen before one can even really judge them. And if you agree with it, what films you would put into that category. Let me know in the comments below.
- A Beginner’s Guide to…Paul Thomas Anderson (oneroomwithaview.com)
- Ranking Paul Thomas Anderson’s Filmography (thereelnetwork.wordpress.com)
- My Top 10 Tracking Shots (henrybevan.wordpress.com)