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I don’t know if Paul Thomas Anderson has it out for religion; There Will be Blood weaved religion into its plot subtly but then unleashed a flourish of violence, living up to its title at the very end. According to Variety, his latest project, called Master, won’t be very subtle at all since it will use religion as the impetus for the main plot. Philip Seymour Hoffman, who has had supporting roles in other PT Anderson films such as Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Punch Drunk Love, will finally be pushed to the spotlight in the starring role. Variety has plot details:
Hoffman, who has played supporting roles in most of Anderson’s past films, this time will be at the center, playing “the Master,” as in “master of ceremonies,” a charismatic intellectual who hatches a faith-based organization that begins to catch on in America in 1952. The core is the relationship between the Master and Freddie, a twentysomething drifter who becomes the leader’s lieutenant. As the faith begins to gain a fervent following, Freddie finds himself questioning the belief system he has embraced, and his mentor.
The drama does not so much scrutinize self-started churches like Scientology or the Mormons, as much as it explores the need to believe in a higher power, the choice of which one to embrace and the point at which a belief system graduates into a religion.
Since religion is at the forefront, PT Anderson will probably take a more nuanced approach, but I have to imagine that he will still be harsh with it. I’m suprised that the end of There Will be Blood didn’t invite more controversy (it was rated R, so maybe the pious didn’t see it). So I’m interested in seeing the stance that PT Anderson ultimately takes.