True stories of miracles, visions, voodoo, snake handlers, civil disobedience, and my search for existential answers along the back roads of the Bible Belt...
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Actually, there wasn't much blood.
Just saw P.T. Anderson's There Will Be Blood over the weekend. It's an intense movie--scripted more like a play than a typical sweeping historical epic. I won't make this into a review or detailed plot discussion, but I did find the film's treatment of religion complex and fascinating.
Organized religion and godless capitalism are each skewered mercilessly, but the story pays more attention to human personality than to large impersonal systems. Both the young Pentecostal preacher and the oil baron protagonist appear sympathetic at times, but in time both are consumed by anger, greed, and pride. I'm not sure if the message is that the two systems are equally bankrupt, or simply that people are more more fragile and corruptible than their belief systems.
I am also not sure if the director is positing a universe with God in it (mind you, this is a vengeful God who curses oil drills) or a universe of meaningless chaos. I think we're supposed to be left on the fence. Sort of like real life.
This book took me through ten states and over 10,000 miles of highway, to rural Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta, prosperous New South suburbs and New Orleans after the flood. I talked to pretty much anyone who would talk to me—black and white, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, Baptist, Pentecostal, and Catholic.
I witnessed protest rallies and Pentecostal tent revivals. I visited megachurches and a pacifist Christian commune. I met a few scary people and many more kind, hospitable ones.
I heard some stories you might or might not believe...