There Will Be Blood was one of the finest films of last year – a bold and mesmerising drama charting the rise of an oil man in the early years of the 20th century.
Daniel Day Lewis won the Best Actor Oscar for his stunning central performance – the driven and obsessive Daniel Plainview, who starts off as a silver miner before slowly establishing himself as a hugely successful oil prospector.
Technically, the film is quite astonishing with Jack Fisk‘s meticulous production design, David Crank‘s art direction and Dylan Tichenor‘s clever editing all of the highest order.
Revisiting the film again on DVD is interesting, as the bold narrative jolts and intensity subside to deeper feelings about the themes of the film.
Although viewers may have theories on the film tied in with America’s current adventures in the Middle East, Anderson doesn’t deal in clumsy metaphors but instead creates a compelling take on America’s obsession with oil, money and business.
Given how outstanding the actual film is, it is a little disappointing that this 2-disc special edition is lacking a little in features.
For the third time running, Anderson has chosen not to record a commentary. Perhaps he feels it should ‘speak for itself’, but given the excellence of his commentary on the marvellous R1 Boogie Nights DVD his audio absence is still sorely missed.
That said, what is here is still very good. The feature takes up the first disc and the transfer of the film is superb – the colours, lighting and sound are all wonderfully reproduced.
But the extras on the second disc – whilst interesting – are a little sparse given the importance of this film.
The Story Of Petroleum: This vintage featurette (1923-7) from The National Archives was created by the U.S. Bureau of Mines in collaboration with the Sinclair Oil Company as a promotional film. It runs for almost just over 25 minutes and provides some fascinating historical and social context. It shows how early oil pioneers looked for and extracted oil from the ground, as well as providing many useful nuggets of information. A nice touch is that Jonny Greenwood’s score is layered over what is an old silent film, making a stronger connection with Anderson’s feature.
’15 minutes’ slideshow: This is a highly effective 15 minute montage of shots from the film inter-cut with archive images the filmmakers used for their research. It is striking to see how influential these photographs were on the finished visuals – some are almost reproduced shot-for-shot. Again, Jonny Greenwood’s score provides a beautiful counterpoint to the visual mix.
Deleted Scenes: The first of the deleted scenes is called ‘Fishing’ and at just over 6 minutes long feels like something Anderson cut out late in the edit process. It show’s how Plainview’s men are badly delayed after their rope breaks and use a process called ‘fishing’ to recover their tools at the bottom of the oil well. There is also a notable exchange with Eli’s father that touches upon the central themes of faith and fathers. The second is a called ‘Haircut/Interrupted Hymn’ which is a strange mix of scenes from the film involving Plainview and H.W.
Dailies Gone Wild (Outtake): Taken from the sequence of Plainview and H.W. in the restaurant, it seems to shed a bit of light on Daniel Day Lewis’ acting methods and culminates in one of the lighter moments he had on set with his young co-star.