From the pages of a book to the scenes of a film, stories can present deep, complicated situations and ideas to their audiences. Allusions are made, irony is created, and themes are introduced. While watching Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 film, There Will Be Blood, one must come prepared with a knowledge of the Holy Bible and keep an open mind to pick up on everything the film offers and understand the unexpected irony. This film challenges its viewers to comprehend the thick plots and ideas that originated from Upton Sinclair’s novel, Oil! Thrusting biblical allusions and literary irony upon them.
Names and titles can be important clues and allusions in any story just as they are in There Will Be Blood. While each major character’s name can be found in the Holy Bible, from Able, Mary, and Eli, to Daniel, some grant a deeper meaning to a character with hidden meaning in the name’s literal definition. Most can instantly relate Mary to the mother of Jesus Christ, the innocent virgin that delivered God’s son to the Earth, but others will not understand “Daniel’s” direct translation to “judgement by God” or “God is my judge.” Mary is automatically recognized as an innocent protagonist because of her name, but Daniel’s traits are more hidden. His name suggests that he is constantly being judged by God with each act the he commits. From this judgement, he is faced with hardships and punishments. Daniel is not only judged, himself, but also feels he has the power to evaluate others just as God would. “I am the Church of the Third Revolution!” he exclaims, sharing his views of his power and righteousness.
Characters aren’t the only ones to receive names from the Bible, however. The film’s changed name, There Will Be Blood, originates from quotes in the holy volume. From Exodus 7:19, God explains to Moses “that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt,” as he foreshadows the striking down of the country to bring the Pharaoh down from his pedestal of power, a privilege he has been misusing and neglecting. God lusts for destruction just as Daniel lusted for money and desired for something that should not be the final goal.
The title, There Will Be Blood, can also call Hebrew 9:22 its birthplace. “Without the shedding of blood, there can be no remission of sins.” The theme is constantly present within the film and gives Daniel a motive to end Henry and Eli’s lives and to end situations through violence. Daniel does not hesitate to use violence to get what he desires and knows that sooner or later, there will be blood.
By achieving what he strives for, Daniel ironically brings about his own demise. Living a life of loneliness, Daniel seeks love and family, wishing to find blood of resemblance. Not trusting and conflicting with those around him, he ends up ruining all the people who could have been family to him. His son is driven away, his half-brother is killed, and his brother-in-law is brought to an end, leaving Daniel with nothing left in his life although he has everything. This unusual situation is symbolically shown in the final scene of the movie when Daniel is found sleeping in his house. Succeeding enough to own his own bowling alley, Daniel is left to sleep “in the gutter” with his alcohol pressed tightly against him. All of his riches and achievements become useless and meaningless.
Of all the people that Daniel announced that he didn’t like, Eli must have been his most loathed enemy. Seeing him for the fake prophet that he was, Daniel could not bear Eli and was annoyed and offended by his presence. Constantly fighting with him, he tried to prove his power over Eli and his greater capabilities. Daniel never pauses from judging those around him and spends a great deal of attention and energy judging Eli. Daniel finds his mistakes and loathes the flaws that Eli possesses, yet Daniel possesses many of the same flaws, himself. Daniel and Eli are very similar, almost the same person, but dislike each other greatly. They are each other’s own images, yet don’t quite realize the odd occurrence.
There Will Be Blood delivers a unique blend of motifs and themes that relies on its biblical allusions and odd irony to completely reach the viewer. Carefully constructed by Paul Thomas Anderson, this film combines holy words with unusual situations and grants a mentally stimulating moment of entertainment that continues to question the viewers event after the final, shocking scene of irony is conveyed. From Upton Sinclair’s novel, Oil!, Anderson has created an award-winning theatrical movie that many argue is his best work filled with many intelligent references and interesting dilemmas.
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