This article is part of our 36 Dramatic Situations series.
For 36 days straight, we’ll be exploring the famous 36 Dramatic Situations by presenting a film that exemplifies each one. From family killing family to prisoners in need of asylum, we brush off the 19th-century list in order to remember that it’s still incredibly relevant today.
Whether you’re seeking a degree in Literature, love movies, or just love seeing things explode, our feature should have something for everyone. If it doesn’t, please don’t drink our dairy-based dessert beverage.
Part 7 of the 36-part series takes a look at “Obtaining” with There Will Be Blood.
Daniel Plainview is a conniving, ruthless and worst of all, gifted oil tycoon in turn of the century Western United States. With the help of his adopted son he seeks to cash in on an unknown and untapped oil reserve currently under the ownership of a small community of gullible landowners. One such owner is Eli, the spiritual leader of the area and if Daniel is going to take control of the entire geographical oil goldmine he’s going to have to deal with Eli, who is every bit as gifted in the skills of manipulation and masking of his own pure greed.
“Obtaining” – This situation includes a Solicitor looking to take ownership by means of force, ruse, or persuasion and an Adversary seeking to deny them their prize. This can also entail a central arbitrator of the two opposing parties, such as a judge in a courtroom.
In There Will Be Blood Daniel Plainview is the Solicitor conspiring to take sole ownership of the land cheaply from its inhabitants, while Eli is his direct opposition to obtaining the land without heavier expenses. The real struggle between the two, aside from just generally not liking each other, is the payment itself. Eli has no direct attachment to the land and has no issue selling it to Daniel to do with as he chooses, but he does expect the payments promised and until they arrive he is going to do what he can to soil Daniel’s hopes of getting all of the lands he needs to build his pipeline as easily as Daniel would like.
There Will Be Blood is a thunderous, powerhouse of cinema and screen acting by Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano akin to some of the 20th century-based epics of classic Hollywood, most famously Citizen Kane. Thematically it shares a lot of the same concepts of corruption of the soul, greed and gradual loss of humanity while deteriorating into madness from pursuits fruitless beyond the acquiring of monetary growth. It’s a story that is very American in its portrayal of the darkside of the American dream – our right and desire to be able to go from living on the streets to champagne and caviar.
The situation of “Obtaining” as There Will Be Blood fits into it serves as the catalyst to move the plot forward as it illustrates Daniel’s supposed moral regression (we never know much about him to assume he ever had them). Each successful business endeavor for Daniel is met with a break in morality or ethical misconduct until, eventually, there’s nothing left of Daniel to conquer except alcohol bottles and a final business goal unmet – revenge on Brother Eli.
Few films resonate afterward like There Will Be Blood has with a number of viewers. The acting is unforgettable, it’s expertly paced, beautifully shot images of deserted landscapes and a score that’s as unique for a film of this kind as you’re likely to hear. You may find more interesting prizes for opposing parties to fight over in other cinematic examples of this situation, but I dare you to find a more compelling Solicitor and enemy.
Bonus Examples: The Addams Family, Raiders of the Lost Ark
Check out our entire series of 36 Dramatic Situations, 36 Movies.
Related Topics: 36 Dramatic Situations