The cinematic works of Paul Thomas Anderson have enjoyed critical acclaim – including 11 Oscar nominations and 2 wins – but they can be a bit perplexing for the average moviegoer. This is especially true for PTA’s 21st century films - Punch-Drunk Love (2002), There Will Be Blood (2007) and The Master (2012).
The first is the story of an eccentric modern-day man (Adam Sandler) who, despite many internal and external obstacles, meets the right girl; the second is the story of a man at the dawn of the 20th century (Daniel Day-Lewis), driven to spiritual ruin by his own ambition; the third is the story of a post-WWII vet (Joaquin Phoenix), who struggles (and ultimately fails) to tame his own savage impulses. To the naked eye, the three films have very little in common – but in a new video analysis, one PTA fan argues that all three films form a complete thematic trilogy, centered on man’s spiritual evolution as it relates to the search for love and connection.
Presented by “Foleyd87,” the video makes some pretty sound and insightful points – including the viewing order (TWBB, TM, PDL). The overarching argument is basically that the three films chronicle man’s search for love and connection, with the first two films examining the ultimate pain and devastation of failing to find said love and connection – with the final chapter, Punch-Drunk Love, ending with its protagonist Barry Egan finally overcoming the pattern of rage and mania by settling into a meaningful relationship with the “right” woman.
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Of course, the video manages to go into much greater detail about has this overarching thematic narrative is represented in each respective film – from specific connecting shots between the works, to the harmonic musical cues that link them together. Most interesting, however, is the argument about Anderson’s use of female characters in each film – and observances like, for instance, how the lack of female characters in There Will Be Blood helps explain Daniel Plainview’s decrepit state at the end of the film.
My personal favorite: how Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s cryptic words about meeting in another life (in The Master) directly connect to the role he had nearly a decade earlier in Punch-Drunk Love. (Wacky?)(Brilliant?) stuff.
If you, or anyone you know has been adversely affected from viewing a PTA film (I’m still taking grief from friends and relatives about my glowing review of The Master), then maybe this video will help you get some perspective. At the very least, it’ll probably spark a small uptick in PTA movie rentals. Never bad for business.
Of course, creative works are always about more than just one theme or interpretation. Do you like the theory the video presents, or do you have your own to share? Let us know in the comments.