Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Review of the movie 'The Master'

What is it that Lincoln said ? '“You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.” 

Paul .T. Anderson's The Master  seems to fit this bill. Movies that meander aimlessly never fail to amaze me. Even if the maker of the movie believed in it (P.T.Anderson), what the hell were the people around him doing?

The story of The Master had immense potential. It could have conveyed the thin line between fanaticism of  belief and non-belief, it could have been a powerful message about the charisma of charlatans, it could have even been a story of the power of influence over the helpless, instead it chooses to be an incoherent mishmash of a half-lunatic war veteran and an evangelist of a new religion.

The war veteran ,Freddie Quell, is played by Joaquin Phoenix and the evangelist,The Master, is a brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman. Freddie is an alcoholic and wanders around until he lands on the yacht of Lancaster Dodd, otherwise known as The Master. The Master is the harbinger of a new cult that is based on beliefs of reincarnation and hypnotism. The Master takes Freddie under his wing and begins a series of psycho-analytical tests to convert Freddie. Freddie's beliefs in The Cause are ambiguous. He attacks anyone who opposes the master but whether he himself is a true believer is questionable. Dodd's wife Peggy (wonderfully portrayed by Amy Adams) seems to be a silent controller of the Master himself. His teenage son does not seem to believe his father's preaching and his daughter and son-in-law seem to be 'Yes' men. In the midst of all this, The Master is a great orator, often holding gatherings in private houses and releasing books about 'The Cause'. His attempts to change Freddie's violent behavior are futile and Freddie escapes him to return to his hometown of Massachusetts.

I have multiple problems with this movie. The biggest one of them is that there are way too many loose threads. Why does Dodd go to the middle of a desert to recover a box that 'seemed' to be his unpublished works? What is the purpose of Dodd's daughter trying to seduce Freddie?  What was the necessity to show the sexual hallucinations of Freddie? Why does Peggy not have a voice in front of the gathering? And many more.

I know that some people might think that meaningless cinema is brilliantly creative , but I think that it is greatly idiotic. The Master seems to fall in the latter category.


Arvind Swarup Pathiki said...

you are right. it is a movie that could have been so much more than what it is. it is a wasted performance from Joaquin Phoenix - and what a fantastic performance it is! very well written review and i agree with most of your views about the movie. coming to what Lincoln said, we will know on Nov 16th.

Anonymous said...

Great review! Philip Seymour Hoffman is great and so is Joaquin Phoenix. But the movie seems to have little purpose. The director seems to like making long movies with little editing.