24 January 2008
There Will Be Blood
The plot is straightforward, and kin to that of The Aviator or Citizen Kane. The protagonist in each of these three cases is an entrepreneur, and we see him overcoming various obstacles in order to build a thriving business and get himself a large mansion.
But in movies of this sort we're also supposed to get a sense of vast human costs intertwined with that success. We end up with Hearst/Kane dying alone in that mansion with the name of a childhood toy on his lips. Or, in The Aviator, with Howard Hughes so imprisoned by his various obsessions that he can't enjoy his victories in the marketplace. There is an analogous ending here, which I won't give away.
The point I have to give away, though, is that we feel the loneliness of the big mansion Daniel Plainview comes to own, a mansion that may have been inspired by one he saw as a kid back in Wisconsin, but one surely on a far grander scale, with enough room for its own bowling alley. We were allowed along the way to enjoy the sheer force of will, the human energy, that force that laid the pipeline to the sea, the pipeline that the Standard Oil honchos thought the protagonist would never be able to build. He built it, by gum. But we feel the hollowness at its end.
This movie makes abundant reference to the biblical resonance of brotherly struggle. Esau the ruddy hunter, and Jacob, his (barely) younger brother, the studious fellow who "dwelled in tents."
There are two distinct brotherly rivalries at the heart of this movie. On the one hand, there are two brothers (played by the same actor) in the Sunday family, which owns land that the Oilman needs for his derrick.
On the other hand, there are (or might be) two Plainview brothers in the movie, and their relationship is foreground just when that of the two Sundays is background.
In short, I loved this movie.
Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.