Just got back from the theater, interesting experience. The ending puzzled me though, and I have no idea what was trying to be implied. After Freddie had gone through so much with Dodd, does he leave him in the end? Even that part was not clear, since it seemed like Fred was still in England when he had sex with the woman. Dodd tells him that he is a free spirit, and that he can go whichever way the wind blows, but I really don’t understand why Fred would simply leave (if that was indeed the case) when he had gone through so much with Dodd. He had defended him every chance he got, and their relationship seemed special. I can’t simply think that Fred has rejected Dodd after everything, and had even traveled as far as to England just for him. When he is in bed with the woman in the end, is he poking fun at Dodd and his practices? Had everything he had gone through been a passing phase? I have so many questions, what are some interpretations of the ending?
I’d put my mubi money (dwindling) on saying that Freddie did leave Dodd.
Freddie is batshit insane, but not completely stupid. He sees at the end that the special relationship he has with Dodd will only be special and beautiful when they are alone. When others are around, Dodd treats Freddie like his dog and project. They can never be on equal footing in this life, so I think that’s why Freddie half-jokingly brings up the next life. Dodd somewhat understands that’s the only way their friendship and happiness can thrive, which I believe is the reason he sings that song (but also desperately shoots Freddie down by saying he will be his mortal enemy).
I have a creepy theory about the ending. When he is having sex and brings up Dodd’s practice, he seems to be trying to hypnotize himself, which brings us to one of the earlier shots of him caressing the sand-lady. He was happy, free, and at peace in that moment when Dodd woke him up from the hypnosis. He is trying to recall that ecstasy, but never will be able to again. His life only had purpose with Dodd, yet he refuses to surrender all of his dignity to be with him.
Freddie was indebted to Dodd for showing his life as something brave and wonderful, and Freddie stayed despite all the mind games and ego-tripping. But when he walks through the ominous halls of Dodd’s now successful legion of loons, it occurs to him he will always come second, and in the presence of others be an artifact of Dodd’s brilliant insights.
In short: Freddie left.
Interesting thoughts, but I’m not sure about the bit of Freddie knowing that he was being treated like a dog. Even in company, he doesn’t seem to express any sort of distaste for Dodd. Of course he ends up getting frustrated by some of his practices, but to me it never occurred that Freddie thought/realized he was being a sort of example. The friendship they have does seem very complicated, since I did feel that both of them were legitimate friends to each other.
The thing I was afraid to see handled in this movie was a lazy critique of religion and a nihilistic viewpoint on life. Is that the case with this? I cannot tell at the moment. My thoughts are running all over the place with this. Is Dodd particularly a bad guy? Was his “religion” simply just a fraud? Dodd seems to have a lot of passion for what he is trying to accomplish, and believes in it strongly, or at least that is the impression that I got.
Dodd is obviously making everything up as he goes along, but I think he honestly believes he’s helping people.
As for the ending, I wasn’t quite sure myself, but I tend to agree with LeCinema’s thoughts. I feel quite sure Freddie left.
I haven’t seen Master, but i do think it’s interesting how much more ‘cynical’ PTA films have become over the years. Compare them to say, Boogie Nights, which is almost a romanticised view of how the porn industry functioned before the advent of video—-to the point that it’s laughable, and i’m surprised to this day that it’s rarely picked up on—or Magnolia, where even the worst characters inevitably suffer from the pangs of a guilty conscience.
This is the first point I want to make: though there are definitely Kubrick influences, it’s 100% original. Seriously, have you ever seen anything with such animalistic performances, or with such visceral original music, or with such psychological dialogue? I haven’t. I think that’s why it needs processing- because it’s an original piece of cinema. Secondly, I have to attend to the back half of the film and how weird it is. I’ll confess, I didn’t really understand the final scenes; one where Freddy and PSH talk in the big room and PSH sings “Slow Boat to China”. More has become clear in my reflection. The Master is aptly named. It’s a film about power and submission. It’s a film about the need to become a slave, a follower of an ideology in order to find peace. (Look at the millions of followers of religion who find peace by submission, by laying down their intellect and saying, ‘not my will, by thy will be done’.) You see, it’s all about the need to be a master, to rebel against it and to dominate. Joaquin’s character, Freddy, couldn’t be tamed. Once he found out that Master couldn’t bring validity to the Cause, Freddy couldn’t submit. The film is a very interesting look at religion, faith, submission, power and the dynamics between. Third, thematically & visually, there’s clues to the film’s meaning if one considers A Clockwork Orange. Look at how similar Alex’s character is with Freddy’s. Take note at the chief subject of both films is reforming their ‘naughty’ behavior. Ultimately both characters cannot be reformed. And both movies end with a sex scene with the protagonist in which the girl is riding the boy and the boy (Freddy & Alex) is happy to be ‘free’ from the reform. Free from submission…free from a Master, which may or may not be illusory. Finally, I want to acknowledge the visual quality of the film. In most PTA films, there’s deep focus; clarity and ultra in-focus environments. In this film, however, PTA gives us a claustrophobic, shallow-depth, soft focus film. To me it gives the characters a chance to come alive on screen and stick in my head. (I seriously can’t shake these characters, their images are burned into my brain.) It’s more static and more mature than any of his previous films. And I’d say more psychological and character-driven than even There Will Be Blood, which I consider a triumphant character piece. But I think The Master goes even deeper into the psyche. Take careful note of not only the shallow depth of field and the film’s themes, but of the production design and color pallet. The film boasts, in literally EVERY scene, blue, gold and different shades of red as the accent color. When you go watch it again, watch for this distinct color pattern that makes the visuals feel unified. Let me know your thoughts as well good sir. I am in love with this movie. I think it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen and wholly original. This film, along with There Will Be Blood, are PTA’s masterpieces. I can’t imagine him topping these two. There’s something very special about the music, the performances and the themes. I truly believe that The Master is a cinematic poem: it should be explored, felt, and digested, but not interrogated and begged for a concise meaning. It’s going to mean different things to different people. (Of course I think there are many clues to its themes of homosexuality between the two characters, the theme of submission and master, the theme of religion and its emptiness and primal instincts- there is evidence for these themes.) But, ultimately, it’s a poem that should be appreciated for what it is, not what it could mean after hours of homework trying to ‘figure out its meaning’, whatever the hell that means. I love it. I will see it a third time in the theatre, something I probably haven’t done since I was a child. It’s a masterpiece and transcendent. It’s more than just a movie. It’s celluloid poetry that I consider sacred. The ending is an agreement to disagree: two men who can’t be anything other than what they are- hopelessly inquisitive, primal masters of their own fates. It’s not cynical, it’s truthful.
^^Works for me.
Edit; Honestly, I was about to offer more or less the same sort of perception of the film, though I love Lover’s take and think that can be pretty nicely reconciled with all this.
Ben, I think your post nails down the dauntingly kaleidoscopic construction of these themes(which already orient around multiweaved, cyclical processes) throughout the film—Freddie goes from animal to Master over the course of the film, and of course, most stunningly, we find Dodd himself the submissive subject of his wife. Really, I am too thoroughly flooded with intimations and mystifications to offer much else in the way of further interpretation—at least not before a second viewing.
Edit 2: My original note after seeing the film, in light of the ending in particular;
Human coping with the burden of consciousness (the end of total primality), must rerealize original nature through subjugation of others into the role of animal as means of establishing own identity, rebalancing own sense of self. Finding unity and calm in the fulfillment of oneself through the erasure of others’ identities(and of course, the reciprocal process by which one defines and stabilizes themselves through obliteration of their identities and essence until it is filled with something that mercifully does not require them to wake the dread-riddled, cognitive, Inquisitive Human from its fetal sleep(i.e. religion and so on). Freddie, the archetypal animal child, has finally stepped from the primal haze into a more complex, aware one(evolving, really) and must assume the role of master in order to cope, just as Dodd and untold others before him.
Yes, I think Freddie left. I think that was inevitable, given the great contrast between the two characters. Freddie is a creature built totally on emotion, and on a primal level, he believes those emotions and the impulses resulting from them will perhaps lead him to happiness. Dodd believes that the key to happiness is the eradication of such impulses. The Cause was something new to Freddie, so for a time he was attracted to it. But I think when he realized the fundamental difference between Dodd and himself, he left and returned to the indulgence of his old life. The question is, who does Anderson think is in the right? I felt as though Freddie was treated with more sympathy, but that could be because he is the protagonist. At least Freddie wants love and happiness; Dodd simply wants answers, and Anderson seems to think that this is a less noble quest.
This film has challenged me and made me think about its intentions in a way that few have. It is undeniably Anderson’s most mature and visually stunning film yet. Both actors deserve Oscars, and Phoenix gives one of the most brilliant performances I have ever seen in a movie.
Lots of interesting ideas here!
After sleeping on it, I have put the pieces together more in my head and have decided that I think I like it. The traps I thought the film could fall into were completely in the Dodd character. I think it would be fair to assume that perhaps he is what religion overall is in PTA’s eyes, I don’t see any other way around it. The taming of our feelings, “man is not an animal”, concrete beliefs in a specific afterlife; all things i think are respectable, Dodd isn’t trying to mislead people, but show them a new way of living. He doesn’t keep anyone in cages, there is no sense of force. I have to reject the beliefs that Dodd is a fraud, since with what I have said before, such a revealing would seem to be an incredibly lazy critique on religion, if the connections of Dodd and religion in our own world are as solid as I think, which I think they are in what PTA is trying to get across. I can’t simply take Dodd’s religion system as something that is so far off removed from everything else. There are only a few scenes in which make his whole belief system questionable, those being (from what I can remember best anyways) the scene in which he changes his ideology slightly (recall to imagine), and the scene in which he is questioned by the man at the first party who suggests hypnosis, Dodd’s answers being somewhat misinformed (a trillion years?) and hectic, although it might also be clear that he is just simply defending what he truly believes in with tooth and nail. I think that Dodd, not only believes that what he is doing is good for humanity, but that he solidly believes in it himself. Though naturally, one would question their own ideologies, there is nothing that suggests that he is a flat out fraud. Doing so would be a cheap way out for PTA, an unnecessary jab at religion itself. One of the key elements that I was thinking about last night was in the ending monologue from the master himself, in which he brings up the point “if you can somehow learn to be your own master, tell me” or something along those lines. I think Freddie leaves for perhaps 2 reasons. First being that he is frustrated with not being able to be deemed meaningful enough for Dodd (the whole encounter seems to be quite unpleasant as well; Dodd’s wife, “sworn enemy in next life”), and secondly, Freddie taking into account this “be your own Master” idea, perhaps though not immediately. Of course then Freddie goes onto have more promiscuous sex, however he begins to merge his life with trickles of what he has gone through with Dodd. I as well thought of A Clockwork Orange a lot in the end, and I think the themes are somewhat similar (though really, religion and radical scientific experiments for rehabilitation are quite different). The ending is on a much more hopeful note though I think, where Alex had completely lost every advancement that had been attempted on him, and of course seems to revert back to his pure evil self. Freddie though, is not pure evil. He is a bit psychotic, but he is not a particularly bad person. I think in the end it is him taking things he had learned from Dodd, intertwining it with him in one of his “animalistic” acts, it shows that the idea might indeed survive on within Freddie, though the effect is not particularly wholesome; Freddie isn’t going to live his life EXACTLY how Dodd set it up, he is a “free spirit”. However, some of the things Dodd had taught him had a great emotional effect on him, so for him to completely dismiss everything I think is wrong. He can’t quit his lifestyle cold-turkey, and won’t, but he will take the bits and pieces from Dodd that truly inspired him, one of them being their first encounter where Dodd does the question session with him.
So in the end, Freddie does seem to become his own Master, choosing what he wants to do, but also taking in some pieces of the experiences he had gone through with Dodd, the ones that stuck with him.
Dodd is a con-man who latched onto Freddy as a sort of human guinea pig on which to experiment his half-baked ideas. When he realizes they aren’t working he sends Freddy away, for con-men can’t function with evidence of their failures lying about.
Ben’s Clockwork Orange comparison is something I would not have considered, but it makes sense. Freddy Quell and Alex DeLarge are similar, as are the conclusions to both films.
Since we’re bringing it up, I’ll mention I do think Dodd actually believed what he was saying. The Clockwork Orange comparisons are interesting too, didn’t think of that. Given PTA’s admiration of Kubrick, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had that in mind, but I don’t think anyone can deny that this is his most original work yet. Certainly unlike any other film I’ve seen.
The more I think about this movie, the more I love it.
Freddie was convinced Dodd was making it all up. He came to England to try to have a relationship with Dodd where they could be on equal standing (his photographer), and Dodd said no, I’m either your master or nothing. Freddie wanted to stay with Dodd because despite being full of crap he made him a better person, but couldn’t be his disciple anymore.
I didn’t like the film too much but I feel I need to see it again without the expectation that Dodd is L Ron Hubbard. Hubbard had a profit motive, Dodd did not. Scientology has aliens, The Cause does not. Scientology sues people over criticism and threatens people who try to leave and charges money to learn all its teachings. Dodd seemed ready to take on anyone at no cost. If I had watched the film without Scientology in the back of my mind I’d have watched it much differently.
I don’t think Dodd believed what he was saying, but he did believe in his ability to help people. Remember when that woman brought up a discrepancy in his teachings, and when she wouldn’t accept his explanation he yelled at her.
I don’t think discrepancy is the right word exactly. He was simply making a change in his ideologies that he felt would enable more compatibility among potential followers, or at least that is how I felt about it. I don’t see how he couldn’t believe in what he was saying, it is all his philosophies, and it is more than simply just trying to help others, he is trying to help himself as well, and because of that he must believe in what he teaches, even though at times it might appear that he himself questions it.
I’m still throwing ideas up around, not completely sold on what I believe it is about just yet. The thoughts of Freddie taking into account Dodd’s philosophies might indeed be the wrong way to interpret it, perhaps reading too far into the film. After reading some interviews of PTA, I think it is best to consider both Dodd and Freddie as a singular person. Freddie acts as sort of the id, Dodd the super-ego. Freddie seems like the uncontrolled Dodd, doing everything he can to defend Dodd’s philosophies from attackers in violent tantrums, what I think Dodd would want to do himself, yet he cannot, he must be more controlled. The end can symbolize that the id cannot change into something else, it will remain how it is, and will always be that way. It’s a departing of Dodd’s personal id and final commitment to his teachings. Notice the dialogue around the end parts, Dodd says that he misses Freddie, somehow finding him after so long. In a way, it’s Dodd’s final confrontation with his own id, and how he realizes that it cannot change, and that it is something he must always do battle against (“in our next lives we will be mortal enemies”, “if you leave, i never want to see you again”) Perhaps he knows Freddie will choose to leave, but in a final attempt tries to persuade him to stay, to attempt to tame the pure id once more. As I’ve said, the id cannot change what it is, and if Freddie does indeed represent the pure id, then the final departure can be seen as a certain realization for Dodd that it will always exist. Just trying to see how the film would work in Dodd’s point of view.
Here are a few interviews that might put more things in context for some people.
I’m still sorting this out in my mind after seeing it last night. Will have to return to the theater again for a second viewing. Quick question, during the last meeting between Freddie and Lancaster – does anyone recall the story of the two balloons that Dodd tells Freddie? That part somewhat lost me. Otherwise, I think all of what’s been said so far is pretty valid.
Quick question, during the last meeting between Freddie and Lancaster – does anyone recall the story of the two balloons that Dodd tells Freddie? That part somewhat lost me. Otherwise, I think all of what’s been said so far is pretty valid.
I don’t know. I think they worked together or something. I couldnt understand, but the expression on Dodd’s face showed the emotional meat of it.
This is one of the only threads that I’m having a great time reading every comment, no matter how long. Your guys’ takes on the film make me appreciate it’s existence more and more.
The sexual encounter at the end of the film is a far cry from the frenzied sexual desperation on display throughout much of the first half of the film, and in that scene, Freddie re-appropriates the Cause’s methodology as a way of having human intimacy. He’s keeping the good and abandoning the bad, and, while far from healed from all his psychological problems, is in a healthier place than he was when the film began.
^ that is exactly the message I was going after in my first interpretation Ryan, though the ending is kind of left open. It doesn’t seem to sway either way, so in my second interpretation, I’m thinking, what if that’s actually not the case, and that Freddie hasn’t really taken anything out of the experience. Here is something I wrote somewhere else, pretty much restating a lot of what I have said already in this thread but to a further extent, and what I think is perhaps a closer interpretation.
“The relationship between the super-ego and the id. That is essentially what I think the film is about to sum it short. Freddie is the pure id; what he wants he attempts to get with no blockades, he is a “free spirit”, not locked down by anyone or anything. In a way, he himself is actually a part of Lancaster Dodd. Notice how he reacts to the people who threaten Dodd, he throws violent tantrums, tantrums Dodd wishes he could do, but can’t. Dodd is “above all else, a man”, and he knows how the id operates. He doesn’t want to succumb to the id, and he wants to teach others how to suppress it, learn from their past-life experiences and rise in a state of enlightenment. The id, Freddie, is Dodd’s sworn enemy. Dodd, being the hopelessly inquisitive man he is, attempts everything he can to change the pure id into something that can learn to suppress, yet you cannot change pure id. It will always be here, forever and ever, living inside us all, because after all, we have to “suppress” a force, that force being that pure id that Freddie is made up of. It cannot suppress itself for us.
The final meeting between Dodd and Freddie is very revealing. Dodd is again reunited with the pure id for one final moment, a final attempt, and realization, of Dodd’s own philosophy regarding the pure id.
“If you leave, I never want to see you again”
“in another life, you will be my sworn enemy”
Dodd is a warrior that is trying so hard to combat the forces of the pure id, and in his final attempt to try to teach it, it walks out the door, drifting, lingering forever, as it always had been. This ending is quite tragic for Dodd, as it symbolizes that he will never be able to change his own id into the thing he desires, it will always be there, remaining inside of him, forever having to suppress it, for it will not suppress itself. In the end, Freddie drifts along like nothing ever happened, joking at the teachings of Dodd and partaking in promiscuous sex, an unchanged man."
Are there things that I have missed out in thinking this?
of course I guess I am leaving out many things about the Freddie character, who seems a lot more fleshed out than how I make it sound. For example the whole story about him and the girl.
I see Dodd as more of a charismatic power addict, like a less abusive variation of the guys in Martha Marcy May Marlene. The small change I saw as proof he really was just making things up.
I don’t think Fred was totally unchanged. He was better at controlling his anger.
I don’t think we see Freddie nearly long enough to confirm that he has changed in any way. He wasn’t a complete psychotic, he just liked messing with people and was a bit eccentric. There was no scene in the end where he would have been put in a position to choose to suppress his emotions rather than be ruled by them. All we really have after he runs away from Dodd is him visiting the girls house, him returning to Dodd after quite some time has passed, and then him leaving again and sleeping with some girl (that’s all I remember anyways). Nothing here really proves that he was able to control himself more, not an improvement over the way he used to be anyways. The more I think about it, the whole story with him and the girl might be there to show that someone like him cannot settle down, and like I said, will always be lingering and drifting, for that in a way is his destiny.
I wrote most of my analysis of what is going on from what I think the film would be about if it were revolved around the Dodd character, and the film is named after him more or less as well. I think people are painting an overly negative picture over his character, when there is in fact not that much evidence revealing that he is really a man with bad intentions. People are free to leave his group as they please, and he didn’t seem that power hungry aside from when he is around Freddie, whom he does treat like some kind of dog or something. He reacts violently when questioned, though it never gets into physical bouts. He stands by what he says and he truly believes that it is beneficial to the human race, and the small change he makes (recall to imagine) would be put into place to garner a bigger audience, as after his speech I remember him stating something along the lines of it being more open. I’ve never seen Martha Marcy May Marlene so I’m not exactly sure of what context you mean when you compare.
^What he said. Freddie didn’t change- the final scene proves that more than anything else. The film closes on a shot of him laying next to the sand sculpture, which is exactly where he was at the movie’s opening. Also, I think there’s an argument to be made that the true ‘master’ was Amy Adams’ character. There’s an interview where Anderson even agrees with that statement.
I apologize if there’s been some interpretations that are similar to this that I missed, but it seems that no one has touched on part of what my interpretation is:
Throughout the entire film, Freddie’s character and behavior seems to be a result of missing a mother, or at least a maternal figure. The absence of his mother seems to be the reason why he craves interaction with other women so much. It is brought up throughout the film that his mother is missing and could also be the reason why he has sex with his aunt. Not only because he was “drunk and found her attractive”, but because he never really had a sense of family. The woman in the sand in the beginning and end is as much of a mother figure he’ll ever have, which is why he cuddles up next to it in fetal position. He does pretend to have sex with her and finger her in the beginning scene but quickly realizes that it is not right, which does not happen with any other woman. There is even a scene where he tries to rebuild her on the beach, maybe if only to just feel her figure against his own. His constant quest for sex with random women shows his need for having a woman close to him and losing his chance with Doris finds him going back to the sand woman (even if only in a flashback or dream). The lack of a maternal figure correlates with the fondness he has for Dodd, the need to have someone give him direction or at least a push.
My take on the two questions of this thread – 1) Freddie does leave The Cause, 2) Freddie does not change. They key line in the film seems to me to be the one about how one goes through life without following a master. The specifics of the cult are a red herring. Its clear that Dodd is full of it, but its also clear that Freddie is a lost soul who, while escaping the grips of the cult, still has no prospect for peace in his life. So, my initial read on a theme might be, one must find meaning outside of one’s self. Something larger (not necessarily religion) because otherwise you may end up a slave to either your inner “master” or someone else’s. This is why we see him spouting Cause gibrish at the woman he’s having sex with. He’s asserting himself as his own Master.
@Brad – so you think Freddie doesn’t change, despite leaving Dodd and “asserting himself as his own Master”? It seems like this conflicts a little bit. Though he’s still drunk during the final sequence, this is the most successfully intimate we’ve seen him with a woman.
@Michael – that’s something I didn’t think about initially – I think that’s very true. Lacking both parental figures definitely contributes to why he behaves the way he does and why he’s drawn to Dodd. Dodd even points this out in the jail sequence – “I’m the only one who likes you. I’m the only one who likes you.” He is seeking approval, subconsciously or not, approval and direction. It also didn’t strike me until after the film just how much Dodd treats Freddie like an owner treats their dog “Naughty boy”, “Good boy”, etc.
What did people make of the sequence in which Dodd’s daughter is feeling up Freddie’s leg? This isn’t really followed up on.
What do people make of the motorcycle sequence? It seems we are further seeing Freddie’s influence on Dodd; the influence to indulge. We see this throughout the film, Dodd indulges more and more around Freddie, hence Peggy Dodd’s steely disapproval (and the hand job sequence). As Scottie said, in this sense, she’s really the master. He also changes his work due to his relationship with Freddie (“recall” to “imagine”), his little speech about the importance of laughter (I can’t imagine this not being spurned by Freddie, who consistently laughs before or after uttering a sentence), etc – I’m sure there’s more I’m missing here.
One thing that struck me was that Freddie didn’t seem all that well-adjusted even before the war. I mean, he’s definitely far worse off after his tour but in the flashback/dream sequences with Doris, he still seems off. Agree? Disagree? I think he didn’t return to Doris because he knows how messed up he is and he knows that it wouldn’t work out. What do you guys think? Would Freddie, post-war or pre-war, even have a chance at a relationship with Doris? It’s difficult to say, considering we don’t see much of them together, but based on all the time we spend with him, I’d say no.
I’m still frustratingly curious (hopelessly inquisitive!) about what Dodd says to Freddie during their final confrontation, about the two balloons. Is Dodd implying that he and Freddie knew each other even before we see them meet in the film? My memory is hazy on this.
@Scottie – I think that final shot is very important – it shows that Freddie’s largest desire is still unfulfilled in my opinion.
On Dodd – I don’t think he believes in his work, on a literal level; I do believe he thinks it can help others. I think he’s crushed when he realizes Freddie is going to leave him, despite those last ditch efforts (which Sunny quoted above) to get him to stay – he even serenades him.
This film definitely continues Anderson’s exploration of father/son relationships. Hopefully a second viewing will help clarify what he’s saying here about that. I also think this film is about super-ego vs. id (like Sunny has been saying) and why a relationship between the two won’t work (pure id cannot be changed and super-ego is tempted/changed by the constant presence of pure id) – I don’t think the relationship is as simple as this, I’ll have to see the film again for a more nuanced view on their relationship. And this film’s about unrequited love, trauma, and the potential (or lack thereof) for individual change, whether from within or from a “religion”. Thoughts?
What do you make of the recurring shot of the waves?
My favorite scene in the film was the “processing” scene between Hoffman and Phoenix on the boat. What was yours?
It may be too soon, but where would you all rank this film in Anderson’s filmography?
Also, just for fun – Which father figure from Anderson’s films would you most like to have as your own father?
>>so you think Freddie doesn’t change, despite leaving Dodd and “asserting himself as his own Master”?<<
I believe Freddie always lived like he was his own master, dispite his being terrible at the job. He’s literally back where he started at the end of the film. The conflict of the film is whether Dodd can change him or not, which he always fails to do.
Based upon my thoughts regarding id and the super-ego, and using Freddie to represent the “pure id”, I would have to say that the scene where Dodd’s daughter feels him up would have to deal with temptation/lack of following her fathers ideologies. She even later lies about the whole ordeal during the motorcycle sequence, saying that Freddie was the one that came onto her. That striving force that Dodd tries to subdue is resonating strong within her, and being so close to someone like Freddie is in a way getting close to the fire, he himself as a whole is a temptation, since i believe he represents that immediate pleasure according to what I have said so far.
The motorcycle sequence seemed to me like a window of opportunity for Freddie to run towards his fantasies of Doris. He had always been curious about her, and Dodd in a way has made him think of her more and more, bringing her up in their first meeting and using the idea of her in some of his routines he made Freddie go through. I guess this “game” that Dodd sets up, where you go straight toward something as fast as you can, represents Freddie going for that thing that he desires, that “dream” I guess you could call it.
The flashbacks of Freddie before the war struck me as something that was somewhat distorted. I mean, doesn’t he look exactly the same as he does throughout the rest of the film? I don’t remember him looking any younger.
The relationship with Doris I don’t think could ever work out, as I’ve said I think the idea of Freddie being able to settle down kind of goes against his character. He sees in the possibilities that can come from such a relationship, and he desires them, as he desires everything that feels good, yet in the end it cannot be, like his relationship with Dodd.
You are right that the relationship is more complex than simply just the super-ego and the id, however on a basic fundamental level I do believe that this is what the film is really about. Freddie and Dodd ARE both human beings, they are more than simply just symbols. Freddie isn’t some sort of complete nutcase that couldn’t live on the outside, I think he knows his limits and how far he can go with them, you see how he reacts when he is in the jail cell, which is probably the most horrible thing to him since all his freedom is closed off from him.
(just kind of throwing ideas at the wall with these theories, I really need to give it all a re-watch going in with what I think of it now)
Not sure what my favorite scene would be, if I could even narrow it down to one lol. There are lots of great moments.
Also not sure where exactly I would rank it in Anderson’s filmography, though it would definitely be in the top 3 at least (along with PDL and TWBB). I think Anderson has moved into a very new and interesting direction after Magnolia, focusing more on specific characters rather than a whole ensemble cast. The entire worlds of PDL and TWBB feel like windows into the minds of the characters. Same goes for The Master.
Haven’t revisited Boogie Nights in a while, but I would have to say that Jack Horner might be the most sane and likable father-figure character in a PTA film :p
Also can someone remind me what Dodd’s wife tells him when she jerks him off? I can’t seem to recall exactly what she says.
Was watching a few of the teaser/trailers for the film, seeing all of the footage that didn’t make it in, and ran into this one that I hadn’t seen before!
Would kind of shed some more light on the ending don’t you think?
@Michael- you bring up excellent points. This really sheds a lot of light on Freddie’s psyche.
@Takaawesome- I don’t quite know what to make of the waves yet. Are they calmer during parts of the film when Freddie is following the Cause? I don’t remember, but if so, they could be symbolizing Freddie’s emotional state.
My favorite scene is probably towards the beginning, when Freddie is working in the department store. The shot of the boat at night is breathtaking as well.
I would have to see the film again before I decide where I rank it in Anderson’s filmography. At the worst, I would put Magnolia, Boogie Nights, and There Will Be Blood above it. At the best, I’d call it his masterpiece to date. Even on first viewing, there’s a strong argument for that- I can say with total assurance that it’s PTA’s most visually breathtaking, thought-provoking, and well-acted film yet.
Favorite Anderson father figure would definitely be Jack Horner from Boogie Nights, the rest are all batshit crazy. The worst would be Daniel Plainview from TWBB.
The difference though between Freddie at the beginning and the end is that at the beginning he was craving sex, at the end he was getting sex. This is not the change Dodd hoped to inspire in him, but it’s a change. He wasn’t flipping out at customers for no reason. His desires had not changed, but he learned how to function in society and covet his desires in a socially acceptable way.
After I saw the film I spoke to some people familiar with Scientology who said that walking back and forth between walls was an exercise to get people accustomed to taking orders. Dodd’s about as benign as cult leaders go, but he’s still a cult leader. He sincerely wants to help people but only in a context where he’s the man in charge. He didn’t just treat Freddie like a dog, he treated everyone like one. Freddie just needed the most training.