The year 2007 saw the production and release of several notable films, and one of these is There Will Be Blood, written and directed by Paul Anderson. This movie takes after a novel by Upton Sinclair entitled Oil! (1927), which, as the book’s title suggests, maintains the discovery of oil as a backdrop, and hunger for power as its driving force. Sinclair’s Oil! narrates the story of James Arnold Russ, Jr. or Bunny, whose father is an oil magnate.
Using the Teapot Dome Scandal that plagued Southern California in the early 1900s as a source of reason for the novel’s reality and conflict, Sinclair showcased the growing tension and distance between Bunny and his father, since the former expressed sympathy towards his family’s employees and workers. There Will Be Blood uses some of the elements and details in the novel, with the established presence of father-and-son representative characters. However, unlike Oil!
which is primarily the story of a son’s values and views in relation to his father’s, There Will Be Blood centers on the point of view of the father, named Daniel Plainview. As a small-time silver prospector, Daniel made his first attempts at success through his accidental discoveries of hidden oil wells. During one of his exploratory diggings, one of his workers is accidentally killed—which led to Daniel’s eventual adoption of his orphaned son. Being the shrewd businessman he was, Daniel used his new son to win new leases on oil-filled land by positioning the boy as his business partner.
At once, the targeted landowners and oil companies were won over by Daniel’s projection as a family man with strong values, and whose business ethics included the transference of know-how and authority to his only son. A young man named Paul Sunday soon approached Daniel with an important tip: that his family’s Little Boston property was filled with oil. This suggestion brought Daniel and his son, H. W. , to secretly travel to the identified land and pose as quail hunters. Soon enough, they discover the abundance of oil in the Sunday property.
As Daniel almost becomes successful at purchasing the land from Paul’s father Abel, Paul’s twin brother Eli appears and easily recognizes Daniel’s true objectives. Being a church preacher, Eli required Daniel to donate a huge amount to the church in order for him to finally buy their family’s property. True to his shrewdness, Daniel only agrees to half. Daniel immediately gets leases on the ranches surrounding the Sunday’s, save for the lone property of old William Bandy. To Bandy’s request that Daniel talk to him in person, Daniel refuses and proceeds with his plans.
On the other hand, Eli acts on his own plans of action as the leader of his own church, which he called the Church of the Third Revelation. However, Daniel started severing ties with Eli and excluded him and his family from any of his designs on their land. Later, a major accident takes place where a worker is killed, and H. W. loses his sense of hearing. For this, Eli blamed Daniel for the sole reason that the latter refused to have his groundwork blessed by the preacher. Daniel retaliates by condemning Eli for not being able to cure H. W. Soon, a man introduced himself to Daniel as his long-lost brother Henry, which Daniel believed.
After confiding in Henry his passion for overthrowing anything that gets in his way, as well as his general hatred of people, the two men set forth to close business deals with huge oil companies. Later, Daniel discovers that the man is not Henry, and kills him. The events that follow validate Daniel’s self-confessed competitive nature, as he agreed to lease William Bandy’s property by first being baptized as a member of Eli’s Church. Bandy knew of the murder Daniel committed, and this led Daniel to allow himself to be humiliated by Eli in the Church.
Soon enough Eli left the community, and Daniel focused on growing his wealth. The film ends with H. W. declaring his intention to leave Little Boston for Mexico, where he would start his own oil company, thereby relieving him of his partnership with his adoptive father. In his rage, Daniel revealed that H. W. was not his son, and H. W. left him for good. Eli reappeared and tried to coerce Daniel into being his business partner, to which Daniel pretended to agree only if Eli would denounce God and himself as a preacher. Then Daniel confronted Eli, and attacked him to his death.
The story, through the main characters of Daniel and Eli, demonstrates the negativity brought upon by greed and self-interest. H. W. and Bandy represent the good in people, and ultimately dissociate themselves with both Daniel and Eli to create better lives for themselves without the threat of control and manipulation. Discussing the film’s scenography involves singling out all the elements that “paint” the scenes—and these include aesthetics, technique, cinematography, editing, codes, and location. Finally, a validation of the efforts made in the film’s production are made through identifying critical reception. II. Aesthetics 1. Actors
Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano play their namesakes in the film, Daniel Plainview and Paul/Eli Sunday. Day-Lewis, with his multitude of acting award and honors, is effective as the evil yet broken Plainview, whose proclamation of his hatred of people was merely a defense against the rejection he had experienced—from his son and brother. Day-Lewis is known to be a method actor, and is preparations for the role included research on oil laborers during the early 1900s and an in-depth analysis of Sinclair’s novel. His portrayal of Plainview, showing him as a middle-aged, crafty man revealed the intensity only a seasoned actor could assume.
Paul Dano, on the other hand, is a physical contrast to Day-Lewis’ Plainview, with his freshly-scrubbed innocence and wholesome credibility—qualities that belied the real character beneath the surface. The role of H. W. Plainview was assigned to the young Dillon Freasier, who fit the requirements of being a boy living in a rough and rustic environment. The combination of all three actors and the characters they essayed provided a balance of contrasts, as well as representations of human values vis-a-vis the stereotypes associated with their personalities.