Thursday, January 24, 2008

Record/Movie Review: There Will Be Blood



Dissonance, startling fucking dissonance; character, color, music. To paraphrase the poet Keats, the quality of art is dependent upon the level of the intensity, and There Will Be Blood is goddamn intense. Daniel Day Lewis turns in one of those performances that turns you inward, taking all the darkness within the viewer and throwing it to the wind. There Will Be Blood is an examination of the character of Daniel Plainview, an self-proclaimed oilman whose absolute nihilism can be drawn to the ultimate nihilist, Shakespeare’s Iago. Lewis is the type of actor whose character consumes him, and in turn consumes us. In the films opening montage Plainview doesn’t say a word, but proves unsettling and powerful nonetheless through body language alone.

Radiohead multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood's musical backdrop, which is excellent as a stand alone album, sounds nothing like a typical string score, and attacks with as much provocation as Day Lewis, turning Anderson’s bleak western landscapes into something even more sinister and evocative. Greenwood’s work relies on space and dissonance, as does Anderson’s film making, adding to the feeling that we're watching some great darkness unfold slowly in some spatial abstraction, or perhaps sinking into the ocean of oil beneath the sun-baked prairie on which Plainview works.

Anderson and Day Lewis have made a character that decays from the inside out, but in a complex manner. Thus, Blood plays out in cold, thrilling tension, but, at the same time, you can’t just quite possess exactly what’s going on. Paul Dano plays the theatrical young preacher Eli Sunday, who possesses enough fervor to stand in the way of the honest Iago, who has enough greed to drown heaven in it. However, Sunday, on his most basic level, exhibits a self serving notion of religious devotion just as empty as Plainview’s unquenchable need for conquest, making Sunday an intriguing, well-developed foil.

Such character development in Blood intense, beautiful, and unsettling, and proves that through the examination of humanity's bleakness, film retains the devastating power to unnerve and challenge. When Day-Lewis uttered his last line and the film ended, I smiled, because I had spent two and a half hours consumed with Anderson’s dissonance, with Greenwood’s dissonance, and I knew I had just seen something brilliant, powerful. (And the last line was funny)

-Matt Gasda

1 comment:

Erik said...
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