Most American movies today are created especially for a specific target audience, such as the nauseating 'Twilight' saga, and it's equally bland cohorts: 'Saw' and 'Paranormal Activity'. Very few modern films dare to step beyond their comfort zone, rendering most cinematic experiences the equivalent of eating a large portion of fast food. The quick sugary rush is followed by the inevitable, saddening come down, leaving the viewer wallowing in regret. Other, more fantastical films such as ‘The Master’, are far more precious, like a choice wine, or a delectable feast, they are a commodity to be savoured, and thought upon as you consume.
Directed by current American wunderkind and cinematic auteur, P.T Anderson, who has garnered a reputation as the natural successor to '70s cinematic titans such as: John Houston, Terrance Malick and mentor, Robert Altman. Here, Anderson draws on a number of differing sources - including conversations with actor Jason Robards (Magnolia), and unused scenes form 'There Will Be Blood' – to tell the beguiling and troubling story of World War II vet, Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), and his chance meeting with enigmatic cult leader, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Since its release the movie has come under fire from a number of high ranking officials in the secretive Scientological religious organisation due to its parallels with the life of founder, L.Ron Hubbard, and with the Church's genesis. However, to simply describe this as a thinly-veiled movie about the roots of Scientology, is to do both the film and its creator a great disservice. While there are similarities to Hubbard and his church, this, like the previous movies in Anderson's oeuvre, this is a film about men and their relationships and how they eventually change one and other, for the better or worse. From the paternal relationship of Dirk Diggler and Jack Horner (Boogie Nights), to the destructive hatred formed between Daniel Plainview and Eli Sunday (There Will Be Blood). In particular, the final scene of 'The Master' is almost a direct play, and flip, on that of 'There Will Be Blood'. In place of the volcanic eruptions of Plainview and his "Eating up" of Eli, Dodd and Quell come to the end of their journey in an unexpectedly melancholic way, as both men sing to each other, in devastation at their parting.