There will be blood is surely an unnerving title to a film. Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance in the 2007 period film is astounding. The film is a loose adaptation of the 1927 novel “Oil” by Upton Sinclair. Our protagonist Daniel Plainview earns a silver and gold certificate. He sets up a company for drilling oil. Paul Sunday a resident of Little Boston approaches Plainview with a new prospecting business idea. Following his lead, Plainview drills the land and acquires immense wealth. The choice of the title focussing on blood while the film revolves around oil bewilders the audience. Where is the blood in ‘an ocean of oil’?
There will be blood in deaths and accidents
In the initial phase of the film, we find Plainview struggling to move to the office even with a broken limb. One might expect the film to show some really bloody scenes. On the contrary, the few deaths that are shown are undoubtedly painful but not drenched in blood. In Little Boston, one of Plainview’s workers dies in an accident. The mutilated body has blood oozing out but nothing too gruesome.
The second death which appeared to have a closer connection with blood was a murder. Plainview discovered that the man he sheltered as his stepbrother was an impostor. One night after drinking at a party, Plainview confronted the imposter shooting him right through his skull. He dug a grave and buried his former friend.
In the concluding scenes, we find Plainview engaging in an animated argument with Eli Sunday. Eli’s death at the hands of Daniel was probably the most gruesome. Contrary to the audience’s expectations the filmmakers didn’t shy away from showing a bloody corpse. However, the deaths do not sufficiently account for the claim there will be blood. Apart from the body, blood also refers to the family. Perhaps, that is why the audience empathizes more with Daniel’s half-brother Henry’s death than Eli’s murder.
There will be blood as it runs in the family
Apart from Henry, Daniel’s closest family member was his business partner, H.W. He was an orphan, Daniel had adopted him not out of sympathy but for selfish ends. Having a baby would garner him the respect of a compassionate and endearing family man. In an accident at the site, H.W. lost his hearing skills. Daniel abandoned him and sent him to the school for those with impaired hearing. However, H.W. was summoned back from his school to comply with the orders of the church of “third revelation”. Daniel was forced to bring back H.W. to reinstate his image as a doting father. H.W. grew up to marry Mary Sunday and set up his own company in Mexico. As they say, blood is thicker than water but oil is more viscous and perhaps more vicious. Hatred and competition for oil replaces the love and respect fostered by blood ties.
The Third Revelation: Oil is the new blood
Eli Sunday is a reflection of Daniel Plainview, the capitalistic front of the church. In their final encounter, Daniel overpowers Eli beating him to death. There will be blood isn’t simply a tale of an oil merchant. It not only traces the progress of capitalism in America but also pits the scientific progress against religion. Eli’s defeat is also the fall of religion in the face of capitalism. Oil is the new currency as evident when Eli tries to pitch the last plot of undrilled land to Plainview. However, Daniel brilliantly exclaims, that he has already sucked the land empty. Scientific advancement is the “Third Revelation“. Accusing Eli of being a false prophet, he dispels that Paul Sunday was the true seer who informed him of the land and made his profit out of it. Daniel’s claim “I am the third revelation“ echoes among the audience.
“I am finished”: Concluding the oilman’s tale
Capitalism’s final blow was to the church. An alcoholic Daniel exclaims “I am finished”. He is drunk in power. Daniel’s competitor for wealth is none other than himself. Dismissing all ties of blood, nature, and humanity, he ruthlessly yet impressively builds his empire. There will be blood sadistically flashes the cold-blooded reality of human ambition in the era of capitalism. This brilliant piece of art is a difficult watch. However, the award-winning performances leave the audience completely soaked and mesmerized in admiration. The film doesn’t pass a moral judgment on the rise of capitalism but provides enough room for introspection and interpretation. The film is pleasantly disturbing, allowing reflection and a possibility of an academic discourse to follow.