Throughout his filmography, Paul Thomas Anderson has covered a myriad of highly specific topics. Whether it’s Hard Eight’s focus on the gambling underworld, Boogie Nights’ portrayal of the pornography business, or There Will Be Blood’s handling of the oil industry, Anderson rejoices in exploring the nooks and crannies of the lives that exist within these strange worlds. His 2012 film The Master was no exception to this, and is perhaps the most dangerous example of them all.
Based heavily on the teachings of Scientology – as well as the life of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard – The Master explores the cryptic relationship between the unstable, primal sailor Freddie (Joaquin Phoenix) and the intellectual Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). This relationship is dissected and observed in many ways throughout the film, but never as engrossingly as during Freddie’s “processing” scenes with Dodd. These sequences, based off the infamous “auditing” upon which Scientology is built, involve Dodd prying personal and psychological details from Freddie through a hypnotic interview process. The sequences also make for incredible two-shots, a specialty of Anderson’s cinematic palette.
Here to help us understand the complexities and specifics of how Anderson and The Master adapt Scientology is a new video from The Nerdwriter. Providing a detailed reading of the film itself while incorporating research on Scientology and its practices, the video is an insightful document that illuminates the hidden meaning of Anderson’s elusive opus.