There Will Be Blood

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How is man made?

One of the most relentless and intense movies of recent years, There Will be Blood remains in our collective conscious due to the questions it raises. Daniel Day-Lewis, who famously stays in character on and off-set, brought a limitless fever to the film.

Compared to Citizen Kane for its ability to capture the essence of a power-obsessed man in early 20th century America, only the generations will tell if this movie has the same transcendence beyond the time that made it. We follow Daniel Plainview as he adopts a partner’s son and battles Eli Sunday—a preacher in the area who is Daniel’s spiritual foil.

Plainview’s words resonate. From his confession, “I have a competition in me,” to a scene on in Eli’s church (mainly in an effort to acquire more land), “I want the blood!” We are left feeling ambiguity: Is he contrite at all? The blood works on multiple levels, from familial desires, to repentance, to greed and competition.

In the end, even Eli Sunday shows himself shallow and does not offer a compelling alternative to the raw monstrousness of Daniel Plainview. We’re left wondering about how a man (or woman) is made, about what basic material holds sway in the end, about the hopes and stories we tell ourselves to define our lives. Daniel Plainview’s story is a warning as much as an exploration; we wonder at the enigma and recklessness of a towering man, whether that haunting phrase is “I want the blood,” or “Rosebud.”