Paul Thomas Anderson’s unique film The Master (2012) is not a movie that millions of viewers will be delighted to watch. American arthouse, a drama with a plot of almost English classics. The story of a worthless life of a little superfluous person, a story about finding a way in a huge indifferent world. The origin and secret of the success of religious or spiritual cults.
The film was received controversially by the public. Wonderful acting, unconditional critical success, dozens of awards and nominations – and a deafening commercial failure. A difficult picture that you can’t see under the popcorn? Disgusting scenes, shocking content? Everything is so, do not even hesitate. For many reasons, such a movie will not become popular among the general audience, and it is also not recommended for viewing for those who are looking for entertainment or are not ready for serious thought.
And yet the Master is a rare special work, classified as an event film, a masterpiece not to be missed.
The main character, not arousing sympathy
The past century, 50s. World War II veteran, retired sailor Freddie Quell finds no place in post-war civilian life. The hero can hardly be called a pleasant person: a loser with a bad character, an alcoholic, an ill-mannered subject with an unbalanced psyche and bad heredity, almost schizophrenic. Lack of family, friends makes Freddie an asocial loner without any sense of existence.
Such personalities are not interesting to anyone in this world. The easier they get into the networks of various cult organizations. Sects are happy to pick up lost souls in the vast expanses. Their heads have a full set of pre-made keys, and the magic formula always works:
Forget all your worries – they won’t go anywhere
Origins and Scientology
Parallels with the scandalous movement Church of Scientology and its leader Ron Hubbard arose among journalists and the public even before the release of The Master. I must say, the analogies are very reasonable and similar to the truth.
The official version of Paul Anderson: direct connection of the plot with the life story of R.L. There is no Hubbard, there is a general interest in the birth of cults in the post-war period. Nevertheless, obvious coincidences in time, biographical details, philosophical views and even appearance confirm: the prototype of the leader of “Origins” Lancaster Dodd is Ronald Hubbard himself.
It is not the first time that fake prophets have appeared in Anderson’s work, this topic really grabs his attention. How do spiritual and religious cults arise and why do they become so popular?
Great and successful
The recipe for success is very simple: to become great, it is enough to come up with your own religion. Many millions of people of different sex, age, nationality feel their restlessness in this world. Lonely and lost, they are willing to worship false prophets with blind desperate fanaticism. It is surprisingly easy to manipulate the consciousness of a crowd of fanatics, because every postulate, every word from the mouth of a guru is an absolute truth for apologists.
In essence, all successful politicians are great psychologists, as well as liars and showmen. Lancaster Dodd in this sense is a successful demonstration of a man of average ability who has become almost God for his supporters.
Which is stronger – the soul or animal instincts?
Philosophical doctrines about the human soul in the mouth of the leader of the “Origins” are repeated like mantras:
Man is not an animal. We are not part of the animal kingdom. We are much higher than these creatures. We are not beasts, but spirits.
But is it really so? The main character is most similar to an animal: full of animal instincts and no reason and control. There is a dog’s loyalty to the Master, aggressive behavior, poor handling. Any attacks on his master cause Freddie to react inappropriately, a desire to simply tear the enemy apart.
You’re a savage! You act like a beast.
Only the “sinless” Lancaster himself is far from always able to cope with the aggression inherent in a wild beast. All those who disagree with his teaching, who have the courage to express any doubts, immediately get the opportunity to see the true face of Mr. Dodd. The mask of good nature falls, and under it sharp fangs are revealed. Or the jaws of a Dragon that cannot be defeated.
The illusion of change
The founding father of the “Origins” sect practices healing and a kind of psychological training. Freddie becomes a guinea pig, on which Dodd works out techniques for influencing consciousness. The master seriously hopes to change the nature of the savage Quell, to educate, heal, and ennoble. As a result, pseudoscientific practices do not bring the expected result.
The inner essence of Freddie remains unchanged. No matter how many lives preceded the current one, in all forms the hero was like that. Why would he suddenly change?
Freedom of the individual
Is the lack of freedom of the soul caught under the charm and power of a charismatic personality – is it a voluntary choice or a kind of hypnotic trance? Followers of cults give up inner freedom, some irrevocably, and some only for a while. Dependence on the will of the dictator is to some extent a way to make life easier for yourself: you do not need to make decisions and be responsible.
If you blink, start over.
Yet the desire for freedom is difficult to undo forever. Even such a nonentity as Freddie eventually leaves his Teacher, going to be sick with his life alone. After all, each of us, in essence, comes into this world alone. And everyone is destined to die one by one.
The meaning of the name
The English title of the film is The Master. Possible translation options: master, master, owner, master, teacher, God. Any version is appropriate, has adequate meaning.
- For the members of “Source” Lancaster is a Teacher , for some even God , every word of which is sacred.
- For Freddie, Dodd becomes master and master . For some time.
- Master of minds, master of mass consciousness manipulation – this is all the character of Philip Seymour Hoffman.
At the same time, the main character is still Freddie Quell, whose role was stunningly played by Joaquin Phoenix.
If you find a way to live without a teacher, any teacher, you will teach us too, please, okay? After all, you will be the first such person in the whole world.
The meaning of the film
What is Paul Anderson’s film really about? The theme of the influence of religious cults on human consciousness seems to be the main one in the context of the plot. A serious project raises difficult questions: the tragedy of an extra person in a huge world, the meaninglessness of empty existence, the desire for freedom – no matter what.
And yet, the director himself expressed his own opinion on his project: The Master is a movie about love and human relationships. Difficult relationship between father and son, people who are mutually dependent on each other, loving – despite the mutual natural imperfection.
Love rules the World
The idea that love rules the world is not new. However, it is this brilliant concept that at all times reconciles people with the failures, troubles, and cruelty of the world. The most callous and aggressive person softens when he hears:
You are the bravest boy in the world.
Maybe these are the most needed words in his life …