There Will Be Blood
starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Kevin J. O’Connor, Ciarán Hinds and Dillon Freasier
written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
From what I read in the newspapers about this movie I expected more than I actually saw. Not that it is not a good film. It is an excellent film and should certainly be on your “to watch” list. But I thought there was enough information and characters in the story to make more than one movie. At the very least there was a lot of leeway to tell the story very differently from what the director decided upon.
Daniel Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview in this film based on the story “Oil!” by Upton Sinclair. He is an oil tycoon from the early days of the oil rush in California - I mean a century ago. Although much of it was filmed in Marta, Texas, the oil town featured in the story is actually based on Glendora, California. It beautifully dramatizes robber baron American capitalism. It features ugly, industrial-scarred landscapes in the days before environmental protection. It teaches you some technical information about mining and very early oil drilling techniques. That was interesting, seeing workers physically scoop up raw petroleum by the bucketful form deep shafts and haul it to the surface with ropes.
There is an interesting mix of silence and sound in the film. The first half hour is very quiet, featuring almost no dialogue. It portrays the early career of Daniel Plainview, before he became a rich oilman, as background. As a lone prospector in the California mountains, he had no one to talk to, so he didn’t talk. He just worked in his mine shaft. Interesting photography, no dialogue, and what sound there was was muffled to give the effect of the action occurring in a mine shaft under ground. It is so quiet that I found myself leaning closer to my computer monitor (I watch DVDs on my computer) trying to hear more, take in more. And throughout the movie there are lapses of silence, or muffled sound. Maybe it’s Daniel Day-Lewis’ acting style, or Paul Thomas Anderson’s directing style - like from the less-is-more, or listen-to-the-words-that-aren’t-being-spoken schools of thought. The soundtrack is also interesting. Sometimes it caresses our ears with the honey of a classical score, while at other times it sounds like the eerie, atmospheric twangs and whistles of Clint Eastwood’s almost supernatural-horror western, High Plains Drifter (1973, shot at Mono Lake in the California Sierra Nevada mountain range).