The Master, a unique and complicated semi-Indie film, gave my mind a serious workout.
The plot follows the life of Joaquin Phoenix’s character, Freddie Quell, a wandering Navy war veteran whose animalistic ways cannot be shaken.
Early in the movie, Freddie stumbles upon a cruise boat and the captain, Lancaster Dodd, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, hires Freddie for extra help. Dodd is not merely a captain, however, he also is the head of “The Cause”. This is an ideology whose followers believe that under de-hypnotization, each person’s essence can be controlled to see what other bodies it has resided in.
The film continues with Dodd and Freddie’s relationship as they grow closer and closer, but Dodd’s family questions Freddie’s presence more and more as this relationship develops. Although Freddie plays the role of Dodd’s protégé, “The Cause” simply cannot control his emotional and chaotic tendencies. Freddie and Dodd’s relationship eventually ends and the film concludes with Freddie’s continuing sexual endeavors.
No matter how interesting, The Master left me with a plethora of questions on my way out that I would die to ask the director, Paul Thomas Anderson. A few of them are as follows:
1. Were the women actually naked in the scene with the song and dance?
If you ask me, this bizarre scene was not to be taken literally. When the camera flashes to Freddie and back upon the women dancing and singing with Dodd without their clothes on, I can only assume that we are looking through Freddie’s lens. This once again emphasizes Freddie’s obsession with sex.
2. Did Freddie ever believe that the “The Cause” could change him?
I believe that because Freddie clicked so much with Dodd and was accepted in “The Cause”, he stuck around for many moons. I also think that he had no real goal or purpose in life, so landing in this movement was enjoyable for him. However, I in no way think that Freddie was ever determined enough to be desensitized by “The Cause”.
3. Did Dodd ever actually believe in what he was preaching as “The Cause?”
At times, I definitely thought that Dodd truly believed in what he was preaching, but in the end I surmised that it was all an act. Dodd himself was an emotional character and was exemplified through his relationship with Freddie. Dodd also did not respond well when onlookers challenged his views, seemingly because he had nothing to back up his ideas with.
4. Were there homoerotic vibes between Freddie and Dodd?
While many may attest that Freddie and Dodd have only a close friendship, I thought that there was definitely an underlying homoerotic tension between them. The two of them always held long, intense eye contact and held onto hugs a tad too long. I do not believe they actually had sexual feelings for one another; however, they definitely seemed to have a deep friendship and longing for one another in an more-than-friends way.
5. How come Dodd did not wish to ever see Freddie again if he chose not to stay with them forever?
I believe that since Dodd and Freddie were so close on a personal level, once Freddie made the decision against living in London with Dodd, they could no longer maintain their intense relationship. Dodd knew that “The Cause” would never change Freddie and this reality hurt them both. Freddie would go on to live his wandering lifestyle in the pursuit of sexual encounter and Dodd would continue his successes with his school in London.