Friday, January 25, 2008

is daniel plainview really evil?

2007 has given me two of my favorite movies.

There Will Be Blood was fucking awesome. Excellent. Among many things, including the music, the cinematography, the first appearance of that one guy from "The Mummy" since "The Mummy", Day-Lewis absolutely killed it and turned Daniel Plainview into my new hero. Sorry, Captain Planet.


I like Rotten Tomatoes, even though their Beta version looks like shit. However, I can't for the life of me understand why their synopsis for this movie calls Plainview "a consummately evil man."

Why was he evil?

Because he hated people? There's nothing inherently evil about misanthropy. It's a preference.

Because he bought up poor farmer's land to use for oil drilling? That's business, people. He never strong armed anyone that I can remember, though he did pay people significantly low sums of money. Which is business. Don't hate the man, hate capitalism, you pussy.

Because he developed a drinking problem? People with drinking problems are evil?

Because he killed the man pretending to be his brother? I'd've popped that fool too.

Because he sent his deaf son away when the kid lit shit on fire? He doesn't know how to handle people, he panicked, and he regretted it. Evil?

Because he called his son a "bastard in a basket"? Come on, the kid was leaving him to start his own business. He was watching maybe the one person he loved become the kind of person he hated most: a competitor. He reacted with alcoholic rage.

And finally, because he murdered that preacher? That tension had been simmering the whole flick. And that little bastard was easily more crooked than Plainview was.

I don't buy him as an evil man. I'm thinking of the scenes where he shows love to his son. The scene where he promises to cut the throat of the man who "tells him how to run his family".

You see his regret at having a brother he never knew. You see his sadness through the annoyance at the revival scene, where the preacher makes him say that he's abandoned his son.

And finally you see it in what I think is the pivotal scene in the movie. The key to understanding his character. Or at least where it dawned for me. When he's in the bar and the important oil men walk in, watch it very carefully. It demonstrates how Daniel's love for his son parallels that of his business, and how the two go hand in hand.

If you take the first scene between Plainview and the oil men, where they are offering to buy his land and where he subsequently turns them down, you'll notice that he becomes enraged at two things: that they feel that he is not capable of building the pipeline, and that he is not capable of dealing with his son.

By the time of the scene in the restaurant, Plainview has successfully built the pipeline, and has brought his son back from exile. He succeeded in one endeavor but not the other. Though he regrets it, he has failed as a father. However, notice as he goes to the oil men's table to gloat about the pipeline, he repeats the line about "telling him how to run his family". That is his focus. Even though his son is bitter toward him, his success as a father is what he brags about. This means many things. One, it shows himself almost trying to convince himself of his worth as a father, and on that note is quite sad. Secondly, and most importantly, it shows that his son is really inseperable from his success at his job. The two are interchangable, both things he wishes to succeed at. Finally, it shows that, as is also demonstrated in the final scene between him and his son, that his son is the face of his success. The cute face that sells his business and makes him successful. And it makes you wonder if that's not why he loves his son so much in the first place.


Go up to the City and watch it. It's awesome.

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