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The Master

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson 

Year: 2012 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson 
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams  
An image from The Master

The Master tells the story of a mysterious cult as experienced through Second World War soldier Freddie (Joaquin Phoenix). Freddie has just returned from fighting in the war and is struggling with adjusting to society. He has clearly been deeply affected by his experiences during the war and has turned to alcohol to try and forget both these experiences as well as his own personal regrets. He meets Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the charismatic leader and ‘master’ of a mysterious philosophical movement known as ‘The Cause’, which appears to give Freddie purpose and a chance to change. The film has received critical acclaim, particularly for its lead performances and has been hailed as ‘very poetic, lyrically shot and seductively scored’ (Empire).

Phoenix gives his best performance since his 2005 portrayal of Johnny Cash, embodying the physicality of Freddie perfectly and depicting both the vulnerability and darkness of the character. But the film really belongs to the wonderful Philip Seymour Hoffman who is excellent as the charming and enigmatic cult leader who plays on the weaknesses of his followers in order to build them anew.

Since the release of the script, the film has been compared to the story of scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and famous scientologist Tom Cruise was reportedly given a private screening of the film due to his concerns of misrepresentation of the church. However, the film’s producers and director have deemed the connections purely coincidental. The Master is a completely original script from Anderson and although elements of Hubbard are seen in Dodd, the focus and beauty of the film lies in the relationship and development of its two main leads.

Hotly tipped for Oscar nominations, The Master is intelligent, beautifully acted, poetically filmed and simply unforgettable.

Olivia Lynch

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Screenings of this film:

2012/2013 Spring Term (35mm)