Saturday, 2 February 2008

Sins of the Father: P.T. Anderson’s There Will Be Blood

Paul Thomas Anderson has an abiding interest in guilt. All of his films revolve in one way or another around its characters’ struggle with their consciences, but in his latest film he has surely expanded this theme into its ultimate iteration: There Will Be Blood wallows in guilt; bathes in it; dives, sinks and ultimately drowns in it. While There Will Be Blood perhaps lacks the range of emotion experienced in Magnolia and Boogie Nights, it more than makes up for it in depth. In oil man Daniel Plainview (played with a characteristic mix of caricature and subtlety by Daniel Day-Lewis), Anderson has created a figure of masculine weakness to rival Mr. Ramsay or Charles Foster Kane: a proud, stubborn egoist with a streak of vanity, and an impenetrable emotional distance that conflicts unattractively with a powerful hunger for affection. Scarcely off-screen for the film’s 158-minute duration, Daniel reveals his ugly secrets to us with a paradoxical mixture of intimacy and ambiguity.