A Look at the Lens: A Thought on There Will Be Blood
Watching There Will Be Blood for the first time through with my parents and them seeing it for the first time, knowing them to be quite vocal commentators I was curious to hear observations as much as feeling I would come away with another detail. Many films, for example one of my favourites The Prestige have a habit of yielding different enjoyment even beyond the obvious point of recontextualization following the unlocking of a twist. It is enjoyable to see the hints you may have missed, perhaps conceive of the wider timeframe; but it goes deeper than that in a truly good story.
I have found that the beauty of cinema, much like a photo is something practically endless, especially the more one realises the effort and repetition inherent with creating a finite thing. There Will Be Blood is a long film, but not one percent as long as the process just to write the script, to film it, for Daniel Day Lewis perhaps to cultivate and express one of many fantastic monologues or character tics as Daniel Plainview.
Knowing that I would get more than one surprise, one more finding, that notion came to me when asked about H.W.’s mother.
She could have been alive.
Those affectionate, at least initially seeming to be paternal visuals of Daniel with baby H.W., that at first glimpse is something. It becomes much worse when say, we see the habit of him giving whiskey to an infant. It becomes clear over time before the devastating ending that Daniel is at the least spiteful and unempathetic, or perhaps simply relates to no other human being whatsoever.
It is less these characters however, but the absence I pondered this time.
Who was H.W.’s mother?
Was she waiting for her baby, to never see him or her husband again? Dead or gone or not; Daniel never cared and scarcely anyone had that thought when we see the sunny desert and the morning train.
All that time, knowing Daniel was evil, hearing his confession about not just apathy but hatred from other people. He could have been a child stealer. The subtle theme of putting women in the background was there. That evil, the reveal of a character who is evil was there and I never thought of it. All those findings make for great art. The most subtle kind of artistic intelligence, tempted to ask questions with the understanding that the audience is a contributor to such postulation. One cannot account for everything, not even to themselves. There may be no deeper theme, or a retroactive brilliance in a narrative that seems to crystalise itself.
I knew I would find something, because it’s a good film demanding concentration, and I set aside the time very rarely for such a thing knowing I’ll very much enjoy the mood and embracing what I am shown. And I liked thinking something that came from nowhere, inspired by nothing, and an interesting game began with the culmination being as I write this perhaps someone behind or watching the film pondered the same idea.
The grainy nature of slick oil, broken stone and blood. It speaks to the location, the nature of the wealth human beings in this world need to crack and tear and store from the ground, the barren nature of the soul arguably. The dryness in our throat, the vast distance between the greed of humanity and the hard land and inert and quite practically useless gleaming metal beneath it, with what draws the eye being liquid to burn. Burn like both affectionate and murderous passion, as in our lives business wills us to navigate the wiles of the well-intended and the vicious.
Interestingly enough, just as there is light, optimism and strength in the horror movie or the terror of real-life atrocity, much of evil can be seen on a sunny day. Emotional questions arise from places we never conceived of, seemingly from nowhere at all. Perhaps it is human nature to enjoy our stories, to tell them, watch them, and draw constant spirals from just one look at the lens of a thing we have already seen.
There Will Be Blood, 2007.