It’s hard for me to describe my feelings toward ‘The Master’. I absolutely hated it, while at the same I absolutely loved. And I can’t exactly reconcile those two strong opinions within myself. What I hated was how the film made me feel. I am a big fan of downer movies, but ‘The Master” left me feeling not only down, but unsettled; unhappy even. At Christ and Pop Culture today, Nick Olson dissected the film in a help way for those like me who left feeling deeply unsettled,
On the whole, Anderson’s depictions work in a way that treats the traumatized characters with care and concern, while also not alleviating the sense in which their ills should be a source of discomfort for the viewers. And this is how genuine intimacy often works: it creates a space where people are laid bare truthfully, and the consequences are not ignored even while the fear of self-righteous judgment is absent. Yes, there are a couple of scenes which are difficult to watch, but one in particular is the perspective of an imaginatively-stunted sex addict. And there’s nothing particularly attractive about it.
The plot, centering around a depraved WWII vet and his odd friendship with an equally depraved cult-leader, draws you in and spits you out unsatisfied and somewhat vulnerable. However, what P.T. Anderson did in ‘The Master’ was grip the audience and move them towards empathy with nearly unlovable scoundrels. This makes the film one of the most memorable films that I have seen in ages.
If you have seen it, go read Nick Olson’s article over at CaPC Now, seriously. And if you haven’t, see it. Unless of course you are sensitive… Then maybe stay away…