“The Master” of filmmaking is out at sea


Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) prepares a cocktail with coconuts and paint thinner. WWII veteran, Quell, befriends the leader of a bizarre cult in an attempt to cure his PTSD in The Master.

Victor Dos Santos, Assistant A&E Editor

In director Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film The Master, Joaquin Phoenix stars as violent, alcoholic, World War II veteran Freddie Quell.

The film centers on Quell’s post traumatic stress disorder, which ultimately brings out his darker side. One night, after doing a bit of heavy drinking, Quell sneaks onto a ship as a stowaway, and passes out.

The ship is owned by Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), the leader of a philosophical movement known as “The Cause.”

Upon learning what Dodd does and what “The Cause” is, Freddie decides that he wants to get involved. From then on, the movie focuses primarily upon loyalty and rejection.

Those familiar with Anderson’s works know them as slow and contemplative films that give the audience some time to think between scenes.

As expected, The Master showcases Anderson’s gorgeous cinematography. Shot on 70mm film, every shot in The Master will feel more grand and meaningful to any cinephile who sees the movie in this format. One might even call the cinematography ‘masterful.’

Anderson focuses on what some people, specifically Quell, will do to feel as if they have found their purpose or something to live for.

After hearing that “The Cause” might be able to cure his “condition” and allow him to be accepted again, Freddie decides to join and center his life around “The Cause.”

The lengths that Freddie will go to finally be accepted by society are haunting. As a member of the group of followers of a society founded on religious principles loosely based on scientology, Freddie has sporadic violent outbursts, and bizarre daydreams that are genuinely upsetting to watch.

All you can do as an audience member is feel sympathy for Freddie’s character because he is, to quote Amy Adams’ character, “past help.”

One cannot give enough praise to Joaquin Phoenix for his portrayal of Freddie Quell.

He completely immerses himself in his role. He does a great job of conveying that there is a hidden sadness beneath all the rage that his character tends to express throughout the film.

The great Phillip Seymour Hoffman also does an amazing job as Lancaster Dodd, also referred to as “Master” by his followers.

His character struggles at every corner with criticism from those who don’t believe in his teachings and even Freddie, in some of the more exhilarating moments of the film.

Unlike Freddie’s character, there is more hidden about Dodd’s character than some may have wished.

His motives for starting this movement are never made clear, and his motives for keeping Freddie close to him only revealed in the oddest ways, usually through sporadic and almost child-like fits of rage.

Many different ideas come into play in The Master, and much of that is due in part to the feeling that Paul Thomas Anderson crammed as much into the movie as possible.

At times, the movie felt overwhelming, but each beautiful shot of an ocean gives us time to think about what we’ve just seen. This makes the experience all the more engaging.

It keeps the viewer thinking about characters’ motives and how everything might play out in the end.

The Master is a thinker, and one that will most likely sit with you for days. The film is a little slow—those shots of nothing but blue seas will stay on screen for quite some time.

Sticking with them though, is part of the experience, an experience that’ll leave you feeling puzzled, exhausted and ecstatic by the fact that such a film exists.

The Master proves that Anderson has proven that the real master here is the one behind the camera.

Through both his creative storytelling abilities and fantastic direction, Paul Thomas Anderson has created a unique portrait of sadness, isolation, and rejection.