December 10, 2019

Review The Master (2012)


“THE MASTER” (2012)
By Paul Thomas Anderson | USA
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The best films are always the most difficult to put into words. Such a case never rung truer than when I watch “The Master” for the very first time. After following the career of Paul Thomas Anderson, I felt like I already have a picture of what all his films is essentially going to be like, and more importantly what themes he will continuously return to. Anderson is obsessed with human ambition; the corrupted, the empowering, and the maddening effects it has on all of his protagonists. But here, for the first time Anderson splits those themes, and spread it wide in a nearly narratively abstract movie; one that invites for different interpretations more than any of his other works.
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To me, “The Master” is essentially a film about the relationship of two men: Phoenix’ Freddie Quell and Hoffman’s The Master. It’s a film that studies the nature of men in its entirety by presenting to us two distinct personification of men’s inherent characteristics and desire, that it’s even fair to say that these two men stands on polar opposites. On one end is Freddie, a personification of men’s primal nature who lifes a nomadic life, wandering aimlessly with no actual purpose. And at the other end is The Master, a leader, an intellectual, a man who has made a clear moral stance and persona for himself to become a symbol of the ultimate search of higher knowledge. While Freddie is satisfied with his meaningless existence, The Master is obsessed in finding a higher purpose of his and all of existence. Where Freddie is driven by lust, hunger, and greed; The Master is driven by his ego, his frustation, and existential dread. These two men are by no mean the same. At first glance, it would be impossible to find any resemblance between the two. But this is exactly what “The Master” is trying to prove wrong.
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Here, Anderson slowly shows how every man is fighting the same war and no matter how much we present ourselves to be — how much we believe that we are above savagery and ignorance — we will never fully escape it. At first it seems clear between these two men who is the leader and who is the follower, who is the manipulator and who is the controlled. Who is the man and who is the animal. Yet by the end, we’ve come to realize that the answers to those questions are not as simple as they may seem. That the primal Freddie and the sophisticated Master, is much closer to one another as we believed them to be. It may came off as a degrading message: that the seemingly most intelligent of our kind is still just as animal as any of our lowest. But remember that the message works in the other way around as well. Sure, you may think that the title of “The Master” refers only to Hoffman’s character. Yet in the end, you’ll see that Freddie is capable of claiming that title himself. If not for a group of people, or even anyone at all, he is still The Master. Just as we are capable of being Masters of our own humanity.
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I can honestly write a book containing only the many interpretations I have of “The Master”; as a retelling of the rise of scientology, a potrait of masculinity, PTSD, 1960s paranoia, a homoerrotic character study, and even a story of grief, acceptsnce, and self-discovery. It is a film endless of layers and themes, infused by Anderson and his crew to every aspect of filmmaking they can possibly do. Every shot speaks for itself its own weight, every line is delivered with such levels of emotion, every sound carries its own sensation, every cast brings a new powerful presence (I didn’t even get the chance to talk about Phoenix and Hoffman, just know that they are the two best actors of recent time); everything in this film is simply and utterly perfect that it has now became one of my all time favorite film. Anderson could never outdo this, unless of course he is a true cinematic prophet sent by God himself.

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