There Will Be Blood part 2

  has taken a firm stand — Daniel Plainview’s primary motivation, he feels, is greed. There is no doubt that DP is a greedy man — not to mention a pathological liar and a homicidal maniac — but I think he’s more complicated than that, as I will hope to demonstrate as I move forward in my analysis. Yesterday I got as far as the end of Act I, and today I’ll be moving on from there.

ACT II: DP has set up his business in Signal Hill. His success in Signal Hill has attracted a young man, Paul Sunday, to him. Paul has told him about a ranch, his family’s, where oil bubbles up through the ground.

The act begins. DP and HW travel to the Sunday ranch, pretending to be campers hunting for quail (DP’s lies are not restricted to his words — he’s also fully capable of lying with actions). He meets Paul Sunday’s identical twin Eli, and here’s where DP’s Gap presents itself. Everything in the movie up to this point has gone pretty much as DP expected it would, a couple of accidents and an impromptu adoption aside (more on that adoption later). DP is caught short by the appearance of Eli, who he first suspects is actually Paul pretending to be someone else.

DP and HW discover oil on the Sunday ranch. They sit on a hillside at sunset and DP tells HW his plans. In a Disney movie, this would be the place for the “I Want” song — “Just Around the Riverbend” or “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King.” DP has a vision of his future, involving digging for oil in Little Boston and piping it to the coast, thus avoiding the railroad’s shipping costs.

So here we have another motivation, not just greed but a need to “prove” something to somebody. It seems endemic to American businessmen, and maybe all pioneers, to not just “succeed” but to prove that they are smarter, wilier and more forward-thinking than those in power. For DP, it’s nice that he’ll save some money by not using the railroads but it seems more important to him to show Standard Oil and the railroads that he’s smarter than them.

And so this circles back to DP’s being alone at the beginning of the movie. He, and he alone, dug the hole that found the silver that made him the money to hire the crew to dig for oil — he’s done it all through hard work and sacrifice (some of it even his own) and he’ll be damned if he’ll let a bunch of three-piece-suited businessmen come along and profit from his hard work (of course, he sees nothing wrong with dramatically underselling the local residents so he can do all this on their land).

DP offers to buy the Sunday ranch, telling the father that he needs a place with dry weather for HW’s health. We’ve now heard three sales pitches from DP, each one tailored to the prejudices of the mark. DP is, essentially, a con man with a talent for digging.

The father is on the hook, but Eli steps in, and here DP’s Gap bursts wide open. Eli, it turns out, thinks of himself as a preacher, divinely chosen to lead people. As much as DP was caught short by Paul Sunday having a brother, he’s struck dumb when Eli announces that he has a church. When he has gathered his wits, he looks Eli in the eye and says “That’s good. That’s a good one.” What he means, of course, is that he recognizes Eli as a fellow con man, who has a good con to play.

In any case, soon DP has bought almost the entire town and “shown” the big oil suits how smart he is. He meets a colleague at the train station and advises him to “look east” for more oil. He says he’d rather his friend drill there than those guys from Standard Oil he hates, but I’m not so sure. We haven’t seen the friend before, and given the way DP treats his competition (with one curious exception, as we shall see) I’d be willing to bet that DP is sending his colleague on a wild goose chase just for laughs.

In his most focused speech yet, DP tells the townsfolk of Little Boston that he and his business are going to transform the town. He’s going to provide roads, employment, agriculture, schools, even bread. DP presents himself, in fact, as a kind of father figure — “Don’t worry about anything, folks, I’m going to take care of everything.” He presents his sales pitch not as “I will take all your valuable resources,” but as “I will give you everything you need.” As the movie goes on, we see that none of his promises are kept in any perceivable way. The town becomes busier, true, but it’s just full of dust and workers and smoke — we never see a school built, a local employed or a farmer’s field bloom.

Eli, of course, sees a missing piece in DP’s plan — he sees that DP’s industry will bring money into the town, which will create sin — drinking and whoring — and thus create a spiritual void. He, essentially, horns in on DP’s con, blows DP’s angle, hoping to make his own fortune from the profitable blight that DP brings with him. DP makes gestures toward providing a spiritual cushion — he promises to build a road to Eli’s church and even says a prayer at the opening of the new well, but they’re only gestures — he not only has no spiritual core, he’s making the gesture to steal Eli’s thunder, lessen his impact on the community, essentially treating Eli as another competitor for the town’s attentions.

In any case, the well is dug and the derrick is put into operation. To sum up the plot for the act:

DP, acting on a tip from Paul Sunday, comes to Little Boston, tries to con the Sunday family out of their ranch but is thrown off by Eli, who sees exactly who DP is and is running his own con. DP promises to buy Eli off, buys the ranch, buys most of the rest of the town, convinces the townsfolk that he’s their new daddy and they’re all going to be a big happy family, and sets about building his first derrick (to seal the deal, he names it after Eli’s sister Mary).

Toward the end of the act HW informs DP, apropos of nothing, that Mary Sunday is beaten by her father. After the derrick opens, there is a celebration and DP hugs Mary to him and tells her, in full view of the father, that there will be “no more hitting.” He repeats this a few times, which makes me think that DP was abused as a child. Given that he’s a cold-blooded sociopath, it’s not surprising, but DP has a peculiar relationship with children all through the movie. To all appearances, he seems to have genuine affection for HW, his adopted son (although he denies it later). He confides in HW and tries to teach him the tricks of the trade, and tomorrow I’ll talk about where I think his affection for HW comes from.

DP pledging “No more hitting” to Mary Sunday, of course, will come to have terrible repercussions later, but I’ll get to that in time.
hit counter html code


10 Responses to “There Will Be Blood part 2”
  1. curt_holman says:

    Can I just say that I found the doubling of Dano as Paul and Eli Sunday to be kind of confusing? At first I thought that they were the same person, and when Plainview and Eli size each other up when he first visits the Sunday farm (on the “hunting” expedition), I wondered if maybe they were just pretending not to know each other to keep the “Paul”/Plainview meeting a secret from the father.

    By the end, I was wondering if there was going to be a big surprise that Eli had multiple personality syndrome, and that he had both a pious “Eli” personality and a mercenary “Paul” one (although I guess his pious one WAS his mercenary one).

    Does Paul ever reappear in the film?

    • Todd says:

      I thought many of the same things — that Eli and Paul were the same guy and was playing DP for some reason that would be revealed in the final act.

      Paul does not reappear in the movie, although DP catches us up on his whereabouts in the final scene.

      • Anonymous says:

        I read somewhere — was it here? the internet is just a blur to me sometimes — that Dano was cast as Paul, and another actor as Eli, but the other actor dropped out, and Anderson liked Dano so much, and wanted to give Dano more than just one scene, that he made him Eli as well.

        I also wasn’t confused about the Paul/Eli thing — DP’s body language said it all for me in that scene. That Day-Lewis guy, boy, he’s got quite a career ahead of him.

        — Kent M. Beeson

    • dougo says:

      I had the same reactions. Even after it ended I was fairly sure that Paul/Eli were multiple personalities, and what Daniel said about Paul being a successful oil man was just made up to taunt Eli. But now it seems that they were definitely brothers– but surely PT intended it to be at least a little confusing? WTF?

  2. kornleaf says:

    ever examine the science of sleep?

    • Todd says:

      Haven’t seen it yet. But I loved the video for “Fell in Love With a Girl.”

      • kornleaf says:

        i love the movie but sometimes ind it confusing as to what it is trying to say.

        • The Science of Sleep is all about Le Milkshake (as they say in the France)…

          As for secondary motivations of DP – I agree – it’s what I was trying to get across yesterday-
          he wants respect, but I still feel that it is part of feeding his greed…

          I think as far as character he is a complicated/twisted one,
          but for motivation or Wadpaw- in service of forward motion to the story-
          it’s all about the black oozing Benjamins…
          he’s got black ooze in his heart…and I’d go with the abuse theory as well

  3. greyaenigma says:

    I think there are locals employed — wasn’t the first casualty a local person?

    I see you’ve posted again, so I’ll comment more over there. You’ll probably steal my thunder anyway.