Paul Thomas Anderson is not a director who turns out films on a regular basis, but when he does they usually have something powerful to say about the human condition.
In Magnolia he focused on urban dissension and family conflict while There Will Be Blood followed one man’s rise to power in the oil business and his subsequent descent into paranoia and insanity.
The Master, his sixth and latest film, similarly charts its main character’s odyssey as he attempts to connect with a world he feels increasingly alienated from.
It is 1950 and emotionally unstable Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) has just been discharged from the Navy.
However, his attempts to adapt to civilian life prove difficult and he finds himself drifting aimlessly from one job to another while filling the rest of his time getting drunk on homemade brew.
But just when it seems Quell has hit rock bottom, he encounters charismatic cult leader Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who offers salvation if he will join his movement.
The Cause, as Dodd refers to it, claims to rid people of their pain through a system of ‘processing’ which involves taking them back through their past lives on Earth in order to confront the root of their trauma.
For Quell, The Cause may just provide an answer to his problems.
The Master may have gained a lot of attention for the fact that it’s purportedly based on real-life figure L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, but it also provides a fascinating insight into the relationship between these two men as it becomes quite evident that Dodd needs Quell as much as Quell needs him.
In the role of Quell, Phoenix is simply mesmerising, his facial expressions and body constantly twisted into a knot of pent-up rage.
He is like a wild animal that could strike at any moment.
Hoffman is equally impressive as the charming Dodd, who in contrast, exudes calm and a father-figure authority which may mask ulterior motives.
Also worth mentioning is Jonny Greenwood’s atmospheric score which manages to be every bit as disquieting as the one he composed for There Will Be Blood.
The Master, just like its Oscar-winning predecessor not only tells a compelling story through the journey of its volatile protagonist, but also peels back the layers of the era to expose the psychological state of a society at the time.
The Master will be screened at The Source Arts Centre in Thurles on Wednesday, March 6th at 8pm. Tickets are priced at E9 (E7 concession & E5 for Film Club members).
For more information please contact the box office on 0504 90204 or visit www.thesourceartscentre.ie.