Paul Thomas Anderson, the director of The Master, is my favorite character director. What I mean by ‘character director’ is that each of his films creates a universe that lives to serve one character. Punch-Drunk Love puts you into the mind of a psychologically abused brother in a family of sisters. There Will Be Blood allows you to accept the suave selfishness of Daniel Plainview. And The Master puts you inside the unsettling and uneasy state of mind of Freddie Quell, a World War II veteran dealing with PTSD and substance abuse.
I should say, I really didn’t like The Master. The film is brilliant, without a doubt it is one of the most important films Paul Thomas Anderson has written and directed. As for me, it went too deep for me to handle, surpassing my threshold of relatability. That being said, the message of the film is clear. We all serve a master. In one way or another, through vices, temptations, servitude, or commitment; we all serve a master.
Despite my frustration while watching this film, I really appreciated the character of Lancaster Dodd. To me, Lancaster Dodd serves as a point fo relatability throughout the plot-lacking story of The Master. I don’t mean to say I relate with him as a person, nor would anyone else watching. I mean to say his character serves as a familiar metaphor of those things we gravitate towards on a search for identity. In a scene from the film, Lancaster Dodd sits with Freddie Quell, hammering him with questions attempting to pull out honesty. This scene shows the break through of Freddie Quell who has now gotten a taste of his identity even if it is littered with things he abhors.
“If you figure a way to live without serving a master, any master, then let the rest of us know, will you? For you’d be the first person in the history of the world.”Lancaster Dodd