“The Master” mesmerizes with its multifaceted talent

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Author: Taylor-Anne Esparza

The newly released Paul Thomas Anderson film, “The Master,” provides audience members with a chance to experience incredible acting, a well-written storyline, and a rising religious controversy. “The Master” is centered around a fictional religion called “The Cause,” a concept that may just be a fabricated philosophy meant to drive the plot. The conflict that compels the film’s plot is the protagonist’s struggle in coming to terms with his participation in “The Cause.”

“The Master” is set in the 1950s and focuses on Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), a man searching to find his way in life after the war. He stumbles upon a “Cause” conference which promotes this fictitious religion and soon after meets its founder, Lancaster Dodd. Quell becomes immediately enveloped in both the religion and Dodd’s family, ultimately losing himself completely to these strangers. 

The leading actors delivered their roles in true definition of great acting. Joaquin Phoenix, as post-traumatic, toxin-drinking, war veteran Freddie Quell, enthralls the audience. A breakthrough moment for Quell occurs during a simple act of pacing and muttering, yet Phoenix conveys the scene so powerfully that the audience cannot help but feel his emotions. Philip Seymour Hoffman stars alongside Phoenix as Lancaster Dodd, the founder of the religion. Hoffman is captivating and intriguing as he plays a controlling and mesmerizing ”Master” who can convince his followers to do anything. Amy Adams co-stars as Peggy Dodd, Lancaster’s eerily dedicated wife. These actors have been surrounded in the Oscar buzz for their roles in “The Master” and there is certainly no question as to why, since the star-studded cast lives up to their reputation with superb acting.  

Controversy has been swirling around this new Anderson film due to the fictional religion’s uncanny similarities to Scientology. “The Cause” teaches its followers that their bodies are simply vessels. They are fortunate to experience the capabilities of their aged spirit and that to access this spirit’s gifts they must relive previous pain and sorrow. Scientologists believe that spirits are eternal, have many lives and can have experiences far beyond their imaginations. The parallels may not be obvious to some, yet through quick research or common knowledge of Scientology, “The Cause” seems quite familiar.  However, to truly understand this ongoing debate a personal viewing of the film is necessary.

The religious controversy is not the only reason “The Master” has been eagerly anticipated. Anderson, a well-known director, contributes significantly to the hype surrounding “The Master.” With his previous Oscar nominated movies “There Will be Blood” and “Boogie Nights,” his name has become synonymous with unconventional plotlines and explicit scenes.

The rare showing in 70 mm film, as opposed to the normal 35 mm film, has also supplied well-deserved excitement for “The Master.” It is apparent that the quality is sharper and the picture can even occasionally seem three dimensional due to its detail. Although the search for a theater may be time-consuming, viewing this film in 70 mm is well worth the wait.  

“The Master” is a great movie for those who love to be completely enveloped in the plotline and the characters’ lives. When the screen goes black and the credits start rolling, there is complete silence among the audience members followed immediately by a buzz of conversation. True to Anderson’s style of filmography, the audience is left questioning everything they have just seen, including the characters’ true motives and the evasive meaning of the closing scene. “The Master” is simply a movie that does not end when the lights come on.

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