I never read Upton Sinclair’s “Oil”. I have read “The Jungle” and many muckrakers’ efforts. I remember thinking how truly horrible it was to work in the meat packing industry “The Jungle” depicts so well. Apparently, Sinclair wrote about the evils of capitalism, him being a socialist, but instead of turning America against industry and the men who ran it, America instead turned to the government to regulate industry with the Pure Food and Drug Act.
“There Will Be Blood” is loosely based on “Oil”. We meet Daniel Plainview, a geologist, first looking for silver, then turning to oil. The opening of the movie does a great job of showing how lonely and risky prospecting is. Then when Plainview finds oil, we see how easily life can end with accidents, how grimy the life was and how high the risks.
Plainview has a son, H.W., but when we are introduced to his son, it wasn’t clear to me that the boy was his. He could have belonged to a worker we saw with the boy and was adopted by Plainview when the worker was killed. But Plainview used the boy as a prop to show he was a “family” man.
Harry Chotiner writes
He (Plainview) seems to feel guilty when being a rotten father, but is uncomfortable with the consequences of affectionate feelings. …We don’t understand Plainview’s own childhood; only that he had one and it meant something to him. We never glimpse what drives him, only that he is driven. Early in the film, he seems the rapacious capitalist. Then we begin to see him as more than amorally greedy, but malicious and cruel.
I think it was easy to depict this capitalist without any moral compass, just greed, willing to do anything to achieve. Even the oil he finds on the Sunday property comes from a Paul Sunday tip not his own hard geologic work.
And what are we to think of the evangelical minister, Eli Sunday, who renounced his God for mammon and a church of his own.
No One in the movie is driven by any moral compass. We have here what is so prevalent in today’s politics, practiced by Hillary Clinton, especially. The end justifies the means!
Sadly, the movie reviews of “There Will Be Blood” mainly concentrate on the process and techniques, rather than the philosophy. And what are we to make of a Hollywood that continually finds anti-American subjects and socialists for movie subject matter.