A lot of fans of my videos have asked me to write an analysis of Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. I still haven’t done it, even though the film has been on my ‘to do’ list for years. Something has put me off and I think it’s the final act of the film, which I found unsatisfactory. But Anderson’s latest film I found much more satisfying.
Many years ago I read a book on the subject of the father of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard. I don’t know how historically accurate it was, but it was fascinating and hilarious and for years I’d intended to revisit it. Watching Anderson’s incredible new film The Master I quickly recognized many details as coming from the realm of Scientology, for example the guru of the story theorizing that each of us have lived millions of past lives (some on alien planets) and that we carry many traumas from those lives in this life and must be cleansed of them by the guru’s “revolutionary” techniques.
It’s easy to assume that Anderson’s new film is basically just a negative critique of Hubbard. Given some of his theories, the Scientology founder is easy to ridicule, but Anderson establishes in an early scene that the man wasn’t untalented – in fact his communication skills were incredibly sharp. The scene I refer to involves Lancaster Dodd (the fictional version of Hubbard in the film) using hypnosis techniques to break down the pathological lying and emotional defence barriers of the film’s main character, Freddie Quell. It’s a very powerful scene, which prevents the film from simply being an anti-Scientology statement. The rough and ready alcoholic Quell is cleverly used, through his questionable “friendship” with Dodd, to make statements about both the talents and shortcomings of L. Ron Hubbard’s motives and brand of communication.
I don’t want to give any more spoilers here, so I’ll simply advise you to get out and watch The Master if you haven’t already. It’s a masterpiece.