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There Will Be Blood

I can't imagine what it must have been like for Daniel Day Lewis to inhabit the role of Daniel Plainview for however long it took to film Paul Thomas Anderson's near-masterpiece, There Will Be Blood. Inhabit it he does. At first, listening to the cadences of a voice that some critics have likened to an imitation of the late John Huston, I thought "oh, this is just mannered," but gradually you realize that the character lives behind the actor's terrifying eyes, in turns glittering, manic, cold as a great white shark, and equally deadly. If Daniel Day Lewis did, in fact, base the voice on John Huston, you can't help thinking of the character Huston played in Chinatown, and the bleak vision of amoral capitalism presented in that movie. Or of Huston's own Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and Humphrey Bogart's obsessed, almost insane character.

Plainview has been likened to Satan, but I fear that he is all too human, representing a side of humanity, an aspect of American identity and aspirations that most of us would fear to touch or even come close to. The excesses of both capitalism and religion - the US's twin obsessions - are what are on show here, in a vision so black, so darkly humourous, that it recalls Beckett or Ionesco, or Kubrick.

What is almost another character in the movie is the remarkable score. Beginning like a hive of demented bees, and in turns atonal, dissonant, mesmerising or frantic, it jars, disrupts, sets on edge in the same way as Daniel Day Lewis' eyes contrast with his cultured, almost plummy voice. At peak moments, we suddenly hear Brahms violin concerto as yet another signal of the contrast between the romantic ideal of the American Way and the vicious, amoral behavior on the screen.

This is in many ways not a pleasant movie; it is sometimes difficult to watch. But it is risky, bold, confident filmmaking, by a director in complete control of his craft in partnership with an equally fearless actor.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
lidocafe
Feb. 22nd, 2008 07:56 am (UTC)
I read that Day-Lewis listened to recorded oral histories of the time to get the voice right.
tree_and_leaf
Feb. 22nd, 2008 08:26 am (UTC)
Sounds interesting. I think I might go and see it (though not if I'm feeling down already!)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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