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.

1 comment:

Anna Mills said...

Thanks--this is a beautiful succinct statement of the central questions left unanswered. I think the film respects the sincerity of religious experience even as it explores all the ways it can be perverted. There's no "opiate of the masses" reductionism here. I think that's why it reminds me of Doestoevsky even though there's no explicit celebration of religiosity as there is in Doestoevsky's novels. In both, however, there's a kind of reverence for the depth of complexity and contradiction in the human soul.