This entry was posted on May 21st, 2012

by Sarah Nichols

Under The Big Black Sun

I won’t bore you with the milkshake. I was asked to write on a film that had changed my life, and while I came here planning to write about Vertigo, I realized that while it had changed my life—perhaps in ways that I cannot even articulate to myself—it had never inspired me to write poetry. There Will Be Blood  has.

After its release on DVD in 2008, I found myself struggling to finish work for an American Literature class. I felt that if I had to write another paper with all of the MLA parentheses in place, my brain would stop functioning. I couldn’t do it anymore.

I had started writing poetry again, however.  I asked my professor if I could write a series of poems based upon a film I had recently seen, based on the novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair (well, only the first 150 pages).  He agreed. The poems are gone now, but the film remains. I should correct myself: my poems are gone, but Anderson’s tone poem of Hell remains. To watch this film is to imagine that America was belched up out of a desert, spewing black blood.

This film is a new myth: a creation story not about a land with a “city on a hill,” as the Puritans imagined, but one closer to the truth of the place, a truth that sounds like the click-clack of bones in Jonny Greenwood’s extraordinary score, and a truth that is arrived at in Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance, as if he too were belched up out of the ground with the oil he discovers, sounding like a distant ancestor of Noah Cross, in another masterpiece of American violation.

“I’m finished!”