Is “There Will Be Blood” a Film for “Narrow-Minded Bigots”?

“The realistic, gritty atmosphere created by screenwriter/director Paul Thomas Anderson and actor Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview is tremendous. It is practically ruined, however, by Anderson’s evil caricature of Eli, the revenge-minded preacher, and the over-the-top, unrealistic performance of Paul Dano as Eli. In fact, THERE WILL BE BLOOD is one of the most mean-spirited, anti-Christian, superficial, and poorly played portrayals of religion ever created in movie history. God knows there have been plenty of insincere, sinful leaders in the Christian church, but there have also been many good Christians who have exposed and opposed such false leaders. The short length of most feature films often require stereotypes, even negative ones, to tell a good story, but when they are so mean-spirited, superficial and poorly played as this one is, they appeal only to narrow-minded bigots with an ax to grind, whose mental faculties and hearts have been poisoned by their sinful misanthropic prejudice.”

So, here we have a review that criticizes Anderson’s movie for including a portrayal of a judgmental Christian.

The reviewer classifies this portrayal as a stereotype, and describes the portrayal as mean-spirited, superficial, and poorly-played.

Then he goes on to judge anyone who finds the film appealing, defining them with a cruel caricature of his own making.

And thus, he gives the impression that, speaking as a Christian, he is prone to judging other people and defining them with a mean-spirited caricature of his own design.

Yes, There Will Be Blood does focus on a wicked preacher — Eli Sunday. Sunday makes a dramatic show of casting out evil spirits, but it’s clear that he’s not truly a man of God. He’s a liar. He’s a deceiver. He twists scriptures so that he can manipulate people.

Guys like him appear in another favorite work of mine: The Holy Bible.

The Son of God promised that deceivers would come in Christ’s name. And there are some strange fellows in the Bible who cast out demons while misrepresenting the gospel. The Bible also gives plenty of attention to false prophets who claim to have revelations of their own, and who lead people astray. Sounds an awful lot like Eli Sunday. You could say that the preacher in There Will Be Blood is a profane and evil man, and you’d be right. But his story in There Will Be Blood certainly demonstrates what the scriptures say about wicked men, and what becomes of them.

It may not be pleasant to watch. But it’s true. And true stories… even true stories about wicked preachers… appeal to me. I live in a world where Christians do sometimes demonstrate a spirit of condemnation, slapping ugly labels on those who disagree with them. And thus I’m not surprised when such characters show up on the big screen.

By the way, in case you missed it the first time, here’s my review of There Will Be Blood at CT. And, as if that one wasn’t¬†wordy enough, here’s the unabridged version of my review at Looking Closer.

As usual, comments are welcome from everyone, so long as they adhere to the Comments policy posted in the sidebar. Thanks.

  • Facebook
About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • http://lookingcloser.org Jeffrey Overstreet

    He’s not just looking for something to condemn. He’s also careful to add a clause that automatically condemns anybody who disagrees with him on that point.

    And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

  • http://phillipjohnston.wordpress.com Phillip

    I read that when it first came out and screamed at my computer. It seems as if he’s always looking for something to condemn.

  • http://www.alissawilkinson.com alissamwilkinson

    Been doing battle with a couple of these myself. It’s hard to fathom seeing those portrayals – of CLEARLY over the top characters – and thinking that Anderson intends to characterize all oil men or preachers that way. But, I guess some people are touchy?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X