There will be Blood | The Search for Family

4 years ago (Mar 30, 2012 6:19 PM)  I made a video on this film which was tapped forever by copyright issues, its still exists on vimeo here, but instead of just uploading an outdated version, I thought I’d give this film another serious investigation, so this is there will be blood film analysis 2.0, the resurrection, re-cut re-written version, this is the search for family. (Proven Lands intro)

So re-watching this film for the first time in 4 years the first thing that struck me was how quickly the themes of ‘creed’ and ‘capitalism’ fell to the wayside, they are of course present but they felt more more like context or setting in which a truly emotional character study unravelled with ‘family’ as its most important theme.

The film revolves around a deeply ambitious man who encounters character who will affect, reflect and contrast Daniel Plainview (Signature)

Daniel Plainview

The name Daniel means, in Hebrew, “Judgment of God.” Daniel sees himself as a God among men, he even refers to himself as ‘the third revel-ation.’ And even thought he believes in plain speaking, suggested by his second name, nothing could be further from the truth, Daniel believes in his words as gospel and uses his ability to speak as a way to manipulating and securing land for drilling. Daniel is the first character to speak after close to 20 minutes, similar to the biblical opening “God spoke, and the earth listened”.

when introducing himself to the audience he says “…If I say I’m an oil man you will agree.” The wording here is very deliberate and has Daniel making up the minds of others through his words, Daniels voice is established early as the source of his godlike power.

This is why Daniel instantly sees through and dislikes Eli, he recognises in him the same ability with words to manipulate and express. Eli is a reflection of Daniel but more on this shortly.

Just look at the standard oil discussion, after Tilford makes one too many comments about raising Daniels family he threatens to cut his throat. This hits a number of themes, Daniel will take away Tilford’s power of speech by cutting his throat and silencing him, he doesn’t like to be told how to run his business or family

but as a man of his word He solidifies the strength of his ‘will’ as he brags about the deal with union oil,  (I told you what id do)

I’m finished’

Its crucial to understand Daniels relationship and sense of power in his own words for his final line of dialogue.

He recognises a few things, the pursuit of oil is over, the battle for godhood with eli is won, his family situation has completely lost hope and perhaps god is judging him in the final moments.

But more likely, with is his words Daniel is giving the film permission to finish, as if by saying so the film is allowed to end.

It draws a parallel to some of Jesus’s last words on the cross, ‘it is finished’

It also suggests that Daniel was unable to achieve godhood by failing to raise a son and therefore like Jesus the bloodline stops with him.

His true failing in the film is his relationship with HW and attempt at fatherhood.

(Big house and lots of children) This vision represent his ambition for success and his much deeper and unspoken need of family.

Daniel achieves the house but not being able to raise a son in his image, he isn’t able to fulfil his dream, and its this realisation which sends him into a spiral of darkness and hatred.

This suggests that the moral lesson of the film could be, ‘success and grandeur are meaningless without the family which satisfies the inner desires of a troubled man.’

Now we don’t know how long he was living in the house before the final scene, judging but the decoration and well filled rooms it could have been a fair time, but its clear that only when Daniel looses the promise and hope of family does he completely allow himself to be taken by his impulses and kill Eli.

He has insulted and even physically harmed Eli many times before but always with some restrain, the final act could be Daniel showing us he has nothing else to loose.

A question I asked in the last version of this video was ‘Did Daniel actually love HW?’ or was he just a front for the perception of a family business the way Daniel expresses at the end. Well after watching this film more than 10 times something occurred to me which I’d never noticed. I want you to pay close attention to this moment….

Did you catch it?

okay, Lets go back

As Daniel sends HW away, he sheds a single tear! Now I’m not saying the that that tear is the key to the entire film but what I am saying is that HW is the only character in the film that can affect Daniels heart.

and unlike Barry Egan from Punch-Drunk Love, a man who craves connections by has no idea how to do it, Daniel is a man who hates the company of others but is burdened with a deep human emotion and yearning family personified in HW.

So not only does Daniel get put in a a position of vulnerability because of his genuine caring for his son but Daniel looses his godlike power and ability to raise him in his image when HW is deafened and for the first time, Daniels power and influence of his words is taken away.

But lets back up a minute,

As we meet HW he is washed in the oil of Daniels first score, linking them through success, oil and marking the beginning of their journey together. HW thematically represents ‘Hope’ for Daniel, during the scene where they are hunting quail and discover oil we see the only time in the film were Daniel smiles and is happy with laughter, this moment combines the two things he has been searching for, the promise of more success with the discovery of the earthquake oil and being able to share this discovery with his son and have this journey ahead of them together.

Like that of baby jesus, HW is brought to Daniel through ‘immaculate conception’ but if we looks at moments of juxtaposition in the film its almost as if its HW that brings Daniel to Life.

After a masterly told and lonely character introduction Daniel Introduces himself to the audience but this isn’t the first time he speaks, his dialogue actually begins moments before, over the image of HW’s first reaching out and connection with Daniel. Its as if in this moment, Daniel seises to be a silent wonderer and begins his journey through the power of HW’s affection.

This for me is the moment Daniel feels his heart weaken and will forever be burdened with this step into fatherhood.

and so its very fitting then that the same day his son is disowned Daniel decides to kill and declare himself done, its as if HW gave him life and without him there is nothing left to live for.

Even though Daniel confesses to having a hatred of people and a competition in him, at all points during the film he is seen with a close partner by his side, (1st with paul, HW, Henry, Associates at end)

But the most crucial turning point for Daniel in the film is the loss of HWs hearing, this frustration for Daniel becomes evident and his son as a symbol of ‘hope’  beings to fade, leading us to a more cynical and faithless version of Daniel, reflected in the character that arrives at this juncture, Henry.

During the silent start of the film Daniel is used to being alone, however after growing with his son, Daniel trades fatherhood for companionship but Henry reflects the worst sides of Daniel. Daniel is mistrusting, Henry is untrustworthy, Daniel is driven by competition and Henry is driven by his failure and similar to Daniel does whatever is necessary to gain some success.

Henry is exposed as a fraud at the beach, you can almost watch the realisation wash over Daniel followed by this gorgeous but meaningful shot of Henry is complete Darkness, he’s exposed, dishonest and having none of Daniels blood in him is killed for trying to defy him.

After the most heartbreaking scene in the film and Daniel trying to cope, HW is brought back but this second section is more out of guilt and Daniels own selfishness than of caring for HW.

We hear the line, (That does me good) hinting at the idea of how much this decision is to help Daniel feel better about himself.

After the crushing disowning scene.

HW uses the line, ‘thank god I have none of you in me’, followed by a short flashback, we see 2 clips, the first of which seems like genuine relationship of affection and the second which show HW wanting more but Daniel foreshadowing the inevitable choice of work over family, as much as his soul carves the connection which HW once represented, Daniel is burdened by his own nature and is destined to return to life alone.

But lets go back a moment at talk about that line, ‘Thanks god I have none of you in me.’

Given the thematic nature of God through the story and Daniels previous disrespect for religion, this line becomes much more of an insult.

So lets talk about insults, lets talk about Eli.

At first glance it would be easy to assign Eli the role of antagonist in this film, but really Daniel merely puts up with him to get what he wants for his oil business. He needs the Sunday range and he needs a pipeline. Daniel treats eli like a boy physically and mentally as he out-wits the young profit.

So Eli becomes not that of threat but more of reflection for Daniel, as another wordsmith and self-assigned god like figure Eli manipulates and demonstrates power to those around him.

Daniel leaves one of his sermons with this wonderful insult, ‘Well its was one god-damn hell of a show.’

God damn and hell is enough, but acknowledging the fact he views Eli’s sermon as a SHOW, he knows exactly what’s really happening, Elis promises and abilities are empty and fake.

This is shown in one of the biggest insults to Daniel is when Eli cannot work his voodoo magic to fix HW’s hearing, this is the ultimate sign of Elis false nature and Daniel looses all patience.

Before this in the film Eli tries to put his words into Daniels mouth by telling him how to introduce him, Daniel again completely disrespects and insults Eli having any power whatsoever, along with threatening to burry him, which he eventually will, all this makes for the sweet revenge and turn of the tables when Daniel is forced to confess his sins for the good of his pipeline.

For a brief moment, Daniel allows himself to be part of Eli’s spectacle but only has a problem with the process when he is made to say, (I have abandoned my child). This line is difficult for Daniel because its a hard truth that he’s hid from and dislikes having to explain himself, the fact the words are coming from Eli is twice as bad.

One moment I love is the silent words Daniel whispers to Eli in the background, and the stunned expression Eli is left with. If we remember from the beginning of the film a very similar posture and held handshake where Daniel tells Paul he will take back his money and more if he is lying. I can only imagine the threat of violence Daniel is promising Eli for this kind of embarrassment.

This scene and the final bowling alley scene parallel certain moments and are the two are in conversation with each other. The obvious role reversal occurs from Eli embarrassing Daniel to Daniel taking his revenge on Eli, both men are exposed for their false natures. The baptism ends with Eli being physically aggressive towards Daniel; this is magnified in the final scene when Daniel physically kills Eli.

Another interesting point that never gets mentioned is that HW marries Mary at the end of the film, making Eli Daniels Step son. Therefore Daniel obtains both his sons through unnatural means and disowns both by the end of the film. (Similar shots connecting to Daniel)

Conclusion

Paul Thomas Anderson has an incredibly varied and accomplished body of work but for me, There will be blood is his masterpiece. I have a soft spot for Punch Drunk love and The Master grows on me every time I watch it but There will be Blood is a film that will stand the test of time in cinema history and I wonder for my own relationship with the film how different ill view this film in another 4 years!