amir manuel’s review published on Letterboxd:
"I am a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist, a theoretical philosopher... but above all I am a man. Hopelessly Inquisitive man, just like you."
The Master is one of the rare films that can impact everyone of us in many different ways. It has many themes and you can’t watch this movie only one time to fully grasp its meanings. To me, it was on this second viewing that I’ve gotten the full experience of it.
CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT AND COMPARAISON TO TWBB (May contain spoilers) :
The movie starts with a man named Freddie. From what we’re shown in the first act, he’s a hopeless and deviant man who constantly hurt the people he meets. We can understand that he’s in these conditions because of war. War just ended and he’s damaged psychologically because of it. The first time I watched it, I didn’t like how sexuality was portrayed. I thought that it was excessive and useless at times. But no, it actually pays off really well. PTA shows sexuality in this way to show us how much Freddie is damaged. You might not like it, but it’s realistic for the context of our main character. Later on, he meets Lancaster Dodd who’s a mysterious man whom we, the audience, understand his ambitions and ways of thinking as soon as he appears on screen. I compared the relation between Joaquin and Philip with the relation of Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood. Not because of the insane acting that each one of these actors present in both movies nor the organic chemistry. But because of the relation of the characters. When the boat scene happens in The Master, we see that that the two characters are gonna have a long journey together with ups and downs just as when Daniel met Eli (Played by Paul Dano) in TWBB. And it happens, the characters share great moments in the beginning even if there’s a bit of mistrust from one character to the other. In the case of The Master, it’s Lancaster who's above Freddie socially and politically. In There Will Be Blood it’s Plainview who’s above Eli, again socially and politically. They have a little bit of mistrust, even when they first meet and they judge each other from their different principles in life. And the two movies work on their own even with their ressemblances and it was so great and bigger than us (the audience) to watch such trustable relationships evolve and turn into unhealthy relations.
THE THEMES :
The themes that are shared in The Master are coherent and powerful just as any other movie of PTA. The main theme of the movie is human nature. Us people, we try too much to fix the problems we encounter in life in the easy way. I’ve known people like that, I also tend to try to solve my problems with shortcuts and not try to fight them entirely. And we’re fully exposed to this imperfection with Freddie throughout the whole movie. As he encounter the cult, they offer him to live better, to be free and that it won’t be hard, as a decision and as a lifestyle. But it’s not true, life is full of hardships and there’s no easy way. You gotta live with your imperfections and learn by yourself to be a better person. There’s no magical way of solving your problems. It’s better to live such a life than to live a life that brainwash is the main component of it. I think that’s the best theme of the movie and it makes you realize that there’s many people that live their lives in constant lies. Maybe we live in lies, who knows, but at least it’s not as unhealthy as this.
Other themes are also presented in the movie, such as the after-life, our existence in this world and how we value each other on earth.
I think that the theme of valuing each other is best represented by the character of Lancaster. He discriminate everyone who doesn’t have the same opinions as he does and is cold-blooded towards them. His feeling of bigotry toward the other contradicts his main principles that he includes in his book. About how a man can’t be distinguished from the other because we live the same lives. Yet he does again judge Freddie as soon as he meets him on the boat, he thinks that he’s a fool living a miserable life, he just doesn’t say it. It layers how much contradiction and incoherence cults and leader of them have on their principles.
I also liked how ignorance is portrayed in this movie. Freddie is just as much ignorant as Lancaster is. Why? Because Lancaster base his morals of recruiting Freddie on how much ignorant Freddie is, in his knowledge. But judging someone by his ignorance of life is just as much ignorant.
THE THECNICAL ASPECTS :
The Master is a movie that was meticulously crafted. On each frame we can see the hard work of everyone from the production. Or from the set pieces that puts us in the context of 1950 perfectly. And to the insanely great cinematography that is so beautiful to admire. PTA is such a great director, that by just filming water he can transmit us a feeling of freedom. And most of the directors that work today wouldn’t be able to give us such emotions in shots that are that simplistic.
IN CONCLUSION :
PTA was the perfect person to direct this movie. The Master has so much of masterwork behind it and it really touched me. It’s one of the best movies of the 21st century, it’s clearly up there with There Will Be Blood or Mulholland Drive and it’s clearly not the last time I’m gonna watch it.