DVD review | The Master – Da doo Ron Ron: Paul Thomas Anderson exposes a charismatic cult leader

There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson has come up with another sprawling period drama that will enthral and infuriate viewers in equal measure.

A story of emotional and psychological turbulence set in the years immediately following World War II, The Master explores the fraught relationship between Joaquin Phoenix’s deeply traumatised US Navy veteran Freddie Quell and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s charismatic cult leader Lancaster Dodd (clearly modelled on Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard).

Dodd claims to be able to cure humanity’s ills by unlocking past lives and sees an opportunity to prove his theories by healing the damaged Freddie, whose mind has been addled by childhood and wartime traumas, and by the lethal alcoholic cocktails he concocts from the likes of paint thinner and darkroom chemicals.

The meeting of Freddie and Dodd is equally combustible. And so is the collision between the contrasting acting styles of Phoenix and Hoffman: one wild and inarticulate, the other smooth and loquacious. Both gained well-deserved Oscar nominations, as did Amy Adams as Dodd’s quietly steely wife.

Included among the Blu-ray/DVD extras is John Huston’s 1946 documentary film Let There Be Light, a portrait of shell-shocked war veterans that Anderson has cited as an important influence on his creation of the character of Freddie Quell.

Released on Blu-ray & DVD by Entertainment in Video on Monday 11th March.

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