There Will Be Blood: Capitalism, Religion, and Invisible Illness

Intro by Maria

The 2007 film There Will Be Blood acts like a master class in how to create an award-winning drama—it’s hard to argue against grandiose shots of oil country that so perfectly characterize Daniel and his drive for money and competition.

The movie, which is loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!, tells the story of Daniel Plainview, played intensely by Daniel Day-Lewis. Daniel is looking to get rich as fast as he can, and so he develops his story—a story of a family man only looking to better communities, not break them. In reality, he is more concerned with success and money, not family or community, and he demonstrates this clearly when his adopted son H.W. gets injured in an oil accident and loses his hearing; instead of being upset by the injury, all Daniel can think about is how rich he is going to get by striking oil.

And get rich he does. We follow Daniel as he makes money and deals, gladly sacrificing his humanity as he grows wealthier and wealthier. He discovers he may have a brother but ends up killing that person when he realizes it’s not true. He sends H.W. away to school after the injury, and when H.W. returns, Daniel doesn’t even bother to learn sign language so he can communicate with his son.

Probably the most interesting relationship in the movie is that between Daniel and Eli Sunday, the local preacher and small-time con artist, or seemingly so, as he dupes his followers into believing that he is a proxy of god. Daniel and Eli obviously despise each other—Daniel hates Eli’s religious claims and Eli despises Daniel’s greed, not because Daniel is obsessed with money, but because Eli wants some of that money. He even humiliates Daniel at church, forcing him to profess that he has abandoned his child. It’s an uncomfortable scene—Daniel at the front of the church, professing his sins, while Eli slaps him and tries to dispel the evil. “That’s a pipeline,” Daniel says under his breath with a smile—it’s clear that Daniel will do anything for money.

At the end, both parties are “finished,” as Eli visits Daniel in his lonely mansion, asking for money. You see, the stock exchange has just crashed, and Eli is in bad spirits. Daniel uses the opportunity to get back at Eli. He forces Eli to confess he is a false prophet. And after that, he teases him, revealing that there’s no money for Eli, and then murders him.The movie has a lot to say about capitalism and greed, which Brandon explores fully in this episode. I take a different route, examining invisible illness and disease—like HW’s struggles with his loss of hearing. I also try my best at impersonating Daniel Plainview. So people, hold your beverages tight, because I drink your milkshake on this next episode of Peculiar Picture Show.


Role of religion in psychology:

Invisible illnesses/disabilities:

Show Summary


Brandon: First time seeing this; blown away; tough Academy Award competition 

Maria: Loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!; my pick; saw in theatres; Paul Dano not originally slated to play both Sunday brothers; best milkshake joke


Brandon: Directing; editing; music, especially the burning oil rig scene; tension directly from filmmaking, rather than plot or story; first 15 minutes; connections between capitalism and religion;  how capitalism replaces Christianity as the dominant faith in America; H.W. and Mary joining religion and capitalism

Maria: four distinct acts that perfectly summed up the movie; characterization; intertwining of these people’s lives and the community; musical score; cinematography 


Brandon: Nothing

Maria: Can be slow for people; confused by Paul Dano playing the characters and no explanation that they were twins

Mental Health

Brandon: Psychological role of religion; people who are religious tend to get more religious when under stress, particular when they’re not supported by the system; the intertwining of capitalism and religion

Maria: Invisible disorders/illness; losing hearing; gaslighting



B: Religion and spirituality is generally pretty helpful for people dealing with stress, particularly when they have little help from the system.

B: When people feel their faith is threatened, they will guard that closely, sometimes irrationally…because it’s an attack on some of the deepest foundational parts of who they are.

B: We see people defending capitalism the same way we see people defending their faith. There’s this really unhealthy union of capitalism and politics and religion. It’s so intertwined that if someone perceives an attack on capitalism it can feel like a crisis of faith. 

B: People a lot of  times will look at religion and say, because religion exists, justice exists in the world. Good things will come to good people, and bad things will come to bad people. That’s the justice that exists because of religion. And people have the same idea about capitalism. Capitalism rewards good people and it punishes bad people, and they just have faith in this system that will provide the justice they want, and it’s normally people who have already succeeded that believe this justice exists.

Next Film

New process: Both Maria and Brandon pick a random movie, and then they decide on one of the two. Winner in bold.

The Big Lebowski (1998) vs. Memento (2000)

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