There is a lot of hype connected with Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. It is full of symbolism and complexity but slowed down by the performances. It follows the story of Freddie (Joaquin Phoenix), a navy man who returns home after serving the country during World War II.
He is a broken man. During his debriefing, he is told that no one on the outside will understand what the soldiers have gone through or would care for them. Freddie and some of the young men are sent back to society. They are left on their own.
Freddie is an alcoholic and not smart. All he knows is how to use his fists and his mind is not sound. He can’t keep jobs because of his violent, alcoholic temper. Then one fateful night, he decides to rob a boat but he stumbles upon a wedding officiated by Laurence Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), who is the charismatic leader of a cult called The Cause.
Dodd promises to help Freddie and invites him into his school where he teaches his theories to his wealthy students. He forces Freddie to go through mental exercises that anger him as the other student watch.
The Cause is said to have some similarities to Scientology where acolytes let their masters to direct their lives. Dodd and Freddie are unappealing characters. And this is why people are turned off by The Master. They fail to show the human essence of the characters. There’s nothing engaging about their performances.
The Master is a very cold movie that emphasizing on intellect above anything else. It pretends to recognize human emotions but it comes out as if they are filtered through ice. The Master is a beautiful and artistic film. It is purely aesthetic because it doesn’t exude any authentic emotion all throughout its run.