Saturday, February 02, 2008

Don't Forget To Breathe

If you plan to see the movie There Will Be Blood then my best advice to you is, "Don't forget to breathe." It's easy to forget when you are watching the most powerful acting performance of the last 20 years (that I can remember). Very easy. Daniel Day-Lewis deserves to win the Oscar for Best Actor. Hands down. It will be a gross injustice if he loses to Johnny Depp or George Clooney. I could not be more clear if I hosted the Oscars myself. That man should win. I don't think any of the other nominees could hold a candle to Day-Lewis's performance in Blood.

To be fair, I only recommend that you go see Blood if you are okay with a bitter storyline, an ending that does not tie up loose ends and watching a person get driven mad by his obsession. I went to see the movie because I thought it would be good research for my writing. It turned out to be so much more than that.

The beginning of the movie jars the audience into its setting and main character. After that you could not walk away if you wanted to. The soundtrack at the very beginning is like the sound of someone holding his breath. It's frightening. The intensity of the acting -- with no dialog for the first 20 minutes -- is gripping. I found myself identifying with Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) from that first moment.

Blood is the story of a man obsessed with making money. He starts out with gold and silver mining then moves on to oil drilling. At first he doesn't seem like such a bad guy. You can tell he swindles people, but he's so good at it that you cannot hate him. As his character develops and things happen to him you begin to see him losing his grip on reality itself. He becomes so engrossed in his own successes that he just hates everyone. I know this sounds horrible, but you can't stop watching. You almost feel like you are Daniel Plainview until it's too late and you suddenly realize he has gone completely mad.

The anchor that makes Daniel Plainview a believable character is his son H.W. For some reason Daniel loves that little boy. Reviewers have said that H.W. was just a prop for Daniel. But I think they're wrong. H.W. was Daniel Plainview's "rosebud," so to speak. He was the one thing Daniel cared about, but Daniel did not love the boy more than Daniel loved his own success. I thought it was interesting that Daniel hated everyone except a child. He was happy when H.W. was a little boy and before H.W. had an accident that handicapped him. Daniel risked his life to save H.W. After that he abandoned the poor kid and became even more obsessed with his oil drilling.

The movie features one other compelling character played by Paul Dano: Eli Sunday. Eli is a preacher under the compulsion of his own obsession. He makes an excellent contrast to Daniel because he is just as obsessed with spirituality as Daniel is with money. I feel bad for Paul Dano, however, because his performance -- which was good -- seemed pathetic in comparison to Day-Lewis'. It would be difficult for any actor to play opposite Day-Lewis in Blood. Eli, at first, welcomes Daniel to his town and helps Daniel buy up the oil rich land. When Daniel scorns Eli's church, however, Eli becomes embittered and wishes he had not allowed Daniel into the community. The two men eventually become enemies. It was interesting to watch them. The one obsession against the other. But both end up in a bad way.

Which leads me to the ending. I'm not going to give it away, but if you prefer happy endings then you will hate this movie. It was truly a remarkable thing to see. When I walked out of the theatre I was so full of different emotions that I had no idea what to say about the movie. I felt like I had just awoke from a dream in which I was a different person. There is so much in a thematic sense in Blood. The characters, the oil, progress. I can't even begin to explain it all. I might have to watch it again . . . Or just buy it on dvd when the time comes.

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