There Will Be Blood…in the Back Row

Okay, maybe not. I went into the discussion of There Will Be Blood thinking that we were going to spar a little bit, but it turned out that we were eye-to-eye on this a lot more than I would have assumed. It doesn’t make for the deepest or most thorough conversation or analysis, but we came to a surprise revelation at the end.

Peter: With all of our delays and interruptions, I’m not even sure where to begin with TWBB, so I’ll just ask you about your overall impression after you re-watched it.

Ashley: As we discussed, I’ve had limited interaction with PTA, but since falling in love with Phantom Thread I want to see more of his films, so it was great timing to re-watch TWBB. I liked it the first time I saw it but didn’t love it like most people. What does stand out, though, is how great looking every scene is. The artistry of each scene and how great they look is incredible. I mostly recall specific scenes and how they looked when I think back on the film. I noticed that during the first watch but it didn’t stick out to me as much; it was also the first of his films that I had seen at that point, and after seeing a couple others, I notice it’s a strength of PTA’s and that definitely stands out.

Peter: So it sounds like today may be a pretty easy discussion since it’s not a film you dislike. It’s cool that Phantom Thread is getting you more interested in PTA; he’s probably America’s greatest filmmaker right now.

Ashley: Definitely a different discussion than we normally have. It’s an interesting one though because even giving this a favorable rating will still earn some wrath. The interactions I’ve had with people about it seem to be you have to think it’s the best or you’re discounted.

Peter: I know what you’re talking about. However, I’m just happy that you don’t hate it. I’ll make a confession and say that it took me about three years to finally watch it all the way through; I always caught it at various points, so never saw it from beginning to end. But once I did, it really blew me away. Like you said, the shots are gorgeous. Daniel Day-Lewis is…superb. I don’t always feel that he’s the character he’s playing, but I felt that way during TWBB. How did you feel about him?

Ashley: Daniel Day-Lewis is incredible. I always love him and think he elevates everything he’s in. I know, not too bold of a statement to make, but he’s always a treat to watch.

Peter: Yeah, calling the greatest actor of his generation the greatest actor of his generation isn’t really going out on a limb, but his work speaks for itself, so words can’t really do it justice.

One thing I think we should discuss is whether Daniel really did or did not love HW. Did he truly love him, but feel that his deafness left him as something “other”, meaning they couldn’t have a good relationship? We saw Daniel be quite loving earlier in the film. What do you think?

Ashley: I kind of thought of HW as a token in Daniel’s life. That’s not to say that he didn’t love him, but more that HW represented the time when Daniel began to prosper and he wanted him around in an almost superstitious way. Almost as if the closer he got to him, the more success he would have, that’s why he nurtured him so much, as if taking such deliberate care of his son would transfer to his career as an oilman. His relationship with his son certainly helped more opportunities arise for him since people loved seeing a family man, but then when he began to fail, it was like his “lucky charm” wasn’t working and that’s why their relationship deteriorated.

Peter: That’s a really great point about HW being almost a talisman for Daniel.

I do have one complaint about the film–Paul Dano. He’s very good in it, and he does exactly what he’s asked to do. However, he’s so good that I now can’t stand him. Does that make sense?

Paul Dano - There Will Be Blood

Ashley: It does make sense, and I felt pretty much the same way. I really disliked his character, though I thought he was well-cast, but I still had a weird reaction to it. It wasn’t like a normal situation where I just didn’t like the character, there was something else going on that I couldn’t really pinpoint, if that makes any sense.

Peter: Right! The combination of religious zealot and whatever it is that Dano has going on combined for something that I can’t get past. He’s a very good actor and has had some other very good performances, but what he did in TWBB has tainted everything else. Basically, he creeps me out.

Ashley: Yes! He just seemed to approach this character much differently than his others and something about it turned me off of him.

What did you think about the soundtrack?

Peter: So much of the score has a silent film accompaniment feel to it that I just loved it. And not just the score, the film itself could almost be shown as a silent film and not lose any of its power.

Ashley: Oh, I like that take! I think we’re nearly 15-minutes in before we get any dialogue, and the blocking and scene composition do kind of lend itself to be viewed as a silent film. I kind of want to do an experiment with this and see how it plays out. I agree with you; I don’t think it would lose any of its power, it may even be more impactful. I’ll try it out and let you know.

Peter: Now I kind of want to try it, too. Perhaps it will be different because we already know what happens, but I still stand by what I said.

Ashley: I agree, I think it would work!

So what will probably happen in the not-too-distant future is that Ashley and I will each watch There Will Be Blood as a silent film. We’ll report back and let you know how it works out.

For more movie opinions, follow Ashley on Twitter @oOoOoBarracuda, and check out her Letterboxd page, too. You can find me on Twitter on the right side of this page, Letterboxd, and right here in the Back Row, Center Seat. See you next time!


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