Most of the greatest films reveal complex and controversial topics to show the intricacy of human life and morality. There Will Be Blood by Paul Thomas Anderson is one example of such film as it depicts themes of capitalist greed, violence, power, hypocrisy, and loneliness, telling the story of one confrontation. At the same time, despite the complex and exciting plot, one of the main elements of There Will be Blood is irony, which helps more deeply reveal the motives of the characters, the meaning of their deeds, and the movie-makers message.
tailored to your instructions
for only $13.00 $11.05/page
There Will Be Blood tells the story of entrepreneur Daniel Plainview, who began developing oil fields in the United States in the early twentieth century. One day, Paul Sunday turns to him and talks about the oil-rich lands of Little Boston, and as a result, Plainview buys a significant part of the grounds and begins to drill oil (Anderson). However, on his first visit to the lands of the Sunday family, Plainview meets Paul’s twin brother, Eli, who is also a local priest. Eli demands a high price for the farm, and although Plainview agrees, a confrontation between the two men begins that day, leading to hatred, cruelty, and violence (Anderson). The film also features important supporting characters such as Plainview’s adopted son and false half-brother, with whom elements of irony and plot development are also associated.
The irony elements are revealed in different forms, and context is essential for understanding their influence on the plot. For example, according to Petrie and Boggs, dramatic irony manifests itself in dialogue lines, the meaning of which is hidden from characters but evident to a viewer (66). In the scene of Plainview’s repentance, when Eli forces a man to confess his sins and publicly humiliates him, he says: “You will never be saved if you… reject the blood” (Anderson). The blood in the scene means “the blood of Christ”, which is used for the ceremony of Baptism. However, Plainview never refuses blood in his pursuit of wealth; in other words, he is ready for sacrifice, murder, and cruelty. Consequently, it is ironic that the priest tells a phrase that is the opposite of reality, since refusing blood and violence could save Plainview’s soul. Accordingly, in these cases, irony reveals the ulterior motives and behavior of the characters, which gives the audience a better understanding of their morality.
Another example that can be defined as dramatic irony is the film’s final phrase. Exhausted, Plainview sits next to the priest’s body and says, “I am finished”, to his butler (Anderson). This phrase has a double meaning because it sounds like an order for the butler to clean up after dinner, but at the same time, it characterizes the result of Plainview’s life, since he committed murders in front of a witness. However, this irony can also be considered situational, since although Plainview defeated his enemy, the enemy at the same time defeated him by causing his imprisonment.
Situational irony also appears in another scene of dialogue at the end of the film. Plainview tells Eli that his brother Paul is a prophet, ironing out the fact that Eli, in his striving for power and money, became broke, unlike his rich brother (Anderson). Since situational irony manifests itself in the opposite effect of the characters’ intentions, this situation demonstrates how Eli’s aspirations turned against him. Thus, the examples of Plainview and Eli’s situational irony demonstrate a universal morality as both men seeking power and wealth have achieved a sad and miserable ending to their stories.
Moreover, the plot and title of the film also present the cosmic irony in Plainview’s life. “There Will be Blood” can be interpreted as Plainview’s desire to have a family and a loved one with whom he can engage in his business. This desire manifests itself through the characters of Plainview’s adopted son and false half-brother. Although a man shows dominance and distrust in any relationship, his son and brother were close people to him and the embodiment of his desire for a family. However, Plainview himself destroyed relations with his relatives as he quarreled with his son, killed a fake but close half-brother, and even murdered his brother-in-law Eli, who could also be his family (Anderson). The cosmic irony is that life is a series of paradoxes and contradictions, and in Plainview’s case, fate gave him the chance to have a family but in a way that seemed unfair to him (Petrie and Boggs 69). This irony called to show the complexity of human relationships and morality, as well as the absolute loneliness of the character, who sought close relationships but destroyed them himself.
It is also worth mentioning the irony and symbolism of the setting, which gives meaning to the plot. For example, after killing a false half-brother, Plainview hides his body and digs a hole. However, when he throws the body into the pit, the viewer can see a dark liquid, probably oil, that fills it (Anderson). This setting is ironic and symbolic, since, in fact, Plainview buries his close friend in oil, which is the source of his profit and cruelty at the same time.
as little as 3 hours
However, the most prominent and important element is the irony of Plainview and Eli’s characters. Plainview’s main motives and reasons are to make money from oil, and they are obviously selfish for the people of Little Boston. However, the entrepreneur benefits the city by providing jobs for its residents, building schools, and bringing money to the people (Anderson). At the same time, the priest Eli publicly acts as a virtue, guided by religion and the salvation of the souls of Little Boston’s inhabitants (Anderson). However, his intrinsic motives are the desire for power, which his position and money can give him. Therefore, the irony is that of the two characters, the hypocritical is the priest, who should be the embodiment of justice and righteousness, and not an entrepreneur who does terrible things but does not hide his motives. Thus, this feature helps reveal the characters, as well as the meaning of the film and the complex aspects of human nature.
In conclusion, this analysis of There Will Be Blood demonstrates that irony is essential to the plot, character development, and the reveal of the writers’ and director’s ideas. The dramatic irony and irony of the characters show the motives of human behavior and the complexity of human nature. At the same time, cosmic and situational irony illuminates universal ideas of justice, morality, and balance. However, to understand the meaning of this element, the context of the story and the interactions of the characters is essential.
Anderson, Paul Thomas, director. There Will Be Blood. Paramount Vantage, 2007.
Petrie, Dennis W., and Joseph M. Boggs. The Art of Watching Films. 8th ed., McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2012.