If all you know about scientology is that Tom Cruise is a follower, then perhaps one of the best new movies to go see this month is The Master, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will be Blood).
The film stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams.
The epic American tale is about a World War II veteran Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) who’s finding it hard to adjust back to life at home. He can’t keep down a job and has resorted to making dodgy batches of moonshine. But his life takes a turn for the better when he runs into Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), leader of a movement called The Cause, which has clear echoes of the Scientology movement and its charismatic founder L. Ron Hubbard.
The Master’s main philosophy is that the Earth is far older than scientists would have us to believe and that each of us living here are akin to Russian dolls, being made up of many past lives and traumas. The Master sees the way forward to world peace and cures for cancer by unlocking all of those past lives and healing the traumas.
Quell is taken under the Master’s wing and defends him to the hilt. We see Dodd mould Quell into the person he wants him to be, taming his wild ways and training him to be his prodigal son, and proving the truth in his theories. We see the two travelling the East Coast of the USA spreading Dodd’s teachings.
The Master was originally going to be a Universal picture, but this fell through because of problems with scripts and budgets. Instead it was produced by Annapurna Pictures and Ghoulardi Film Company and won the coveted FIPRESCI Award for Best Film at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
It’s a rich American drama, and both Phoenix and Hoffman give their acting best in their respective roles. It’s definitely one to look out for on this month’s cinema listings for a thought-provoking night at the movies.
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