There Will Be Blood: Grumpy Old Man

Once a fire has be lit in my creative writing mind, the more smoke I can make. Two blogs in two days! I’m risking missing my train to work which shows I’m definitely keen this time…

Continuing on the theme of films I like – there are too many critics who write about films they hate, and let’s face it there are very few good films, and so, so much that is “undevelopment”. There Will Be Blood is my favourite film of all time. I’m not saying of course that it should be yours, and I’m not going to try and convince anyone, but I think the reason I like it can be applied to other people’s understanding of why they like things too.

There Will Be Blood, for those who don’t know, is a film about a grumpy old man who wants to be rich – Daniel Plainview. It is a period piece and the protagonist’s attitude is strongly reflective of his period – a prospecting, wasteful and misguided society. The other side of the coin is what appears to be a religious fanatic (but in fact is a younger version of the protagonist), Eli Bandy – he uses his influence in religious circles to get his own way. The two come into conflict over influence in the town in which they have both settled; and a struggle to the death insues.

Daniel Day Lewis said in an interview; that the initial reason he wanted to be involved in There Will Be Blood is that you learn everything about Daniel Plainview in the first ten minutes of the film and there is no dialogue. A lesson to script writers everywhere I suppose; and when I watched the first ten minutes I knew that I was going to like the film, the screenwriter (Paul Thomas Anderson) knew what he was doing. But aside from the script which is fantastic, the thing that makes There Will Be Blood my favourite film is that the story speaks to me – it connects with a strong thread of my own personality, that is, being a grumpy old man. In the opening scene Daniel Plainview is alone and there is no dialogue, a metaphor for the peace and quite that a grumpy old man craves. He has his own space to do his own thing and doesn’t suffer fools; in fact it is success that brings Plainview into contact with others, “I hate most people”, he says.

I have always described There Will Be Blood, for some reason, as a fine wine, something that matures over a long time and eventually delivers a feeling of total release and satisfaction. In the film itself, this “maturing” manifests itself as a rot of hatred that sets in, and eventually destroys Plainview with ultimate grumpyness. The final scene is one of my favourites, and I couldn’t help laughing as this intoxicated, gargoyle of a man throws bowling pins at a snivelling hypocrite. Plainview sees the faults in others because he sees the faults in himself, in effect he is self loathing, and this, is the point of being grumpy. It is the same as being bored with yourself and being stuck in a rut. I guess that is what selling life insurance for a living does to you…

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