I got into this argument last night. I think you do eventually come to understand him over time but he is not meant to be likable or relatable in any way.
I agree that he’s not really meant to be a likable character and that you come to understand him but I feel that he is a relatable character. Once you understand him and what drives him, you can begin to relate to him, even if you still don’t like him. He is a man driven by not just ambition but pride and insecurities. He let’s his insecurities and failures eat away at him. Whenever another character seems to get the better of him, he does not let it go and fixates on it until he again gain the upper hand. We all have insecurities that eat away at us and drive our decision making. While Daniel is a larger than life character and his behavior seems extreme, I feel like you can still relate to him on a base level; especially in the baptism scene, when he is forced to admit his biggest failure.
Are you saying you find him intellectually comprehensible but are unable to connect to him emotionally? If so, how to you feel about this?
I find Daniel Plainview relatable, but don’t feel that this is the case for everyone, as I am a borderline personality with an anxiety disorder, and struggle to see the good in people.
There was a big discussion on this board about the similarities between Daniel Plainview and the main character of Anderson’s previous film, Barry Egan. Both characters, and the director, seem to display many of the symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome. Some may see it difficult to relate to either of them because they have had that portion of them selves that is able to relate to people turned off. Though Barry is indeed the more sympathetic of the two mainly because he inhabits a modern setting and is the victim of a constant barrage punishment. What makes Plainview compelling is that he makes an honest attempt to sympathize and care for people, but no matter how much he tries he is unable. The only time he seems truly happy is when he is when he is pulling oil from the ground, he is not even happy with the wealth he gets from that oil.