The Master

The Master

This is not a review. Just an attempt to spark some discussion about this film, compilation of my thoughts. Master was mostly snubbed at the award seasons this year. But this film is something like an iceberg, more than what meets the eye. I believe in years to come ‘The Master’ will be talked about a lot.

Joaquin not giving a fuck, at the Oscars.

That’s Joaquin not giving a fuck, at the Oscars.

If you have seen ‘There will be blood’ or ‘Magnolia’  you would know that  PTA isn’t someone who would spoon feed you. You cannot expect normalcy in his films. Magnolia is a huge testimony to this fact.

Master, tell the story about a relentless, wayward war veteran , played by Joaquin Phoenix and ‘the Master’ played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. It tells the viewpoints (not a story, mind you) of the ‘Sheep’ and the ‘Shepherd’. The sheep and the shepherd are the two characters of any religious faith in this world. It has various interpretations, representations as the God and Devotee etc depending on the faith. We have all had this internal conflict within ourselves, the endless questioning of our faith. Is there a God, why should we devote to him, why follow these ‘rules’. A conflicted sheep we all are. The Master is an exploration of this.

Freddie is a war veteran. He has lost it, all from the killings and turmoils of the war. He is a raging alcoholic struggling to fit into post-war society. He is a ticking time bomb, ready to blow up any time. Uncontrollable. That’s when he meets Lancaster Dodd, who is spearheading a cult called ‘The Cause’ (the film is supposedly loosely based on Scientology) who sees something special in Freddie. He decides that Freddie needs help. Here begins the exploration of the master-servant relationship in any faith.


Master is fluid in nature. Its free flowing, casually paced. Aggressive and passive at times. We are often shown this magnificent shot of this ocean current. Its like Freddie’s mind and what he is going through. Constantly relentless, never still but he is striving for that calmness. Most of the rants about the film was its pace and incomplete picturing. The pace attributes to this fluid narrative. I felt the characters never transformed and this duality was in them through out the film. It was like I expected them to transform, change, discover answers. This gives the incomplete sense to the film. But these are questions that we all face and try to comprehend even now. Film is only as incomplete as our lives. Duality again.


One of the most interesting things about the film was presenting the point of view of the Master, Lancaster Dodd. On his first encounter with Freddie, Dodd states “.. but above all I am a man, a hopelessly inquisitive man, just like you.”. He is a man like the servant itself. He has partial answers or answers which he can only partially comprehend, a set of procedures that seems to help people. He has some theories and philosophies regarding this. But he is just another inquisitive man like us. He doesn’t have all the answers. That is why he retorts when intimidated about his theories.

The film is enormously overwhelming. Electric performances by the whole cast. That is the highlight of the film. One should just watch it for the performances. I haven’t watched Lincoln but having watched this I half believed Joaquin Pheonix might win the Best Actor. Not to mention Philip Seymour! These two were trying to top each other. Brilliant piece of acting. My comments about acting would be incomplete if I did not mention Amy Adams. Brilliant portrayal of the loyal sheep to the Master, the one with unflinching, confident faith to ‘The Cause’.

Mihai Malaimare’s cinematography was beautiful and dreamy. It all the more added to the flowy narrative. It was extremely surreal at places. There are many other aspects of cinematography which I had in mind but I will reserve that after some multiple watchings of the film.

Another wonderful aspect is the background score. Those of you who have watched the trailer, must have noted the peculiar bgm score, those seemingly un-tuned notes on guitar. Somehow for me it emphasized more of Freddie’s character. Untuned, raw natured. That was brilliant for me!

‘The Master’ is an iceberg. There are more things that are depicted about faith, religion and our minds. It is not a film for everyone and it definitely requires multiple viewing. The whole point of this write up is to spark some discussions. These are some of my vague thoughts about the film. Please add your views in the comments section.

Master was brilliant for me. I hope you enjoy it too.

Joaqin Pheonix


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