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Daniel Day Lewis Perfect Villainy and Other Villains on Film

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posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:03 PM
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Hi and welcome!

I've been thinking about the characteristics that make a great villain and think that Daniel Day Lewis, who imo is above reproach as an actor, embodies the most perfect example of a villain that has ever been depicted on film in his character Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood.

On the surface, no one can deny that Daniel Plainview is an evil, brutal, mercenary man. His crimes include two murders, conning poor farmers out of oil rich land, and disavowing his only child. He is a self-proclaimed misanthrope. The movie closes on Plainview, covered in blood of the man he just murdered, casually saying to his butler "I am finished."


But a closer examination of Plainview's character shows enough nuance (and very subtly I might add) to make him human, almost pitiable, with an extremely complex and (might I say it?) ethical core. Or not. And the fact that intelligent debate can be had over the man's true character, with both sides presenting reasonable arguments, is a testament to the genius of DDL's acting.

Some scenes that show the better side of Plainview's character:
-The opening scene depicts a man who is driven to succeed despite all adversity. We see him get horrifically injured in a mine, only to drag his body to safety (while carefully carrying the silver he had found- can't let an injury get in the way of profit). From this scene, we can understand a bit of his drive, and see that he is not above doing hard/dirty work in the quest for the dollar.

-Daniel adopts the orphaned child of his dead colleague. We see him care for the child as best as he can, and his instinct is to comfort the babe. Some think he used the boy in order to depict the image of a family man but I argue that there is plenty of evidence of Daniel's love for HW. I would also posit that Daniel couldn't possibly have had that image in his mind the moment he chose to take care of the orphaned child.

-Plainview takes in the man he thinks is his brother and shares his home, resources with the man. He also opens up to his "brother" about his inner being and his desires.

-He wishes to improve the area surrounding his oil well and the quality of life for the farmers/homesteaders who live nearby.

-Plainview has an intense distaste for hypocrisy, and he is a man of his word. (I think-would have to watch a second time to see if he followed through on all of his deals).

One of the prevailing factors in Daniel Plainview's character and actions is his painful isolation. He is almost entirely alone in the world (mostly self-imposed, but perhaps much of this comes from his dislike of human hypocrisy and folly) and his innermost desire appears to be having a family of his own- more than the drive for money or success. The lonely shots of the plains, the unnerving soundtrack, a few key scenes DDL nails all add to the bitter isolation of Plainview. Here's an incredible scene that show Plainview's longing for kin:



I'd like to add that I'm convinced that Plainview's first murder (of the man fraudulently claiming to be his brother) was because he believed the imposter murdered his real brother. (Along with the crippling disappointment to find he has no living kin). When Plainview grilled him about his true brother, the imposter said (after swallowing a lump in his throat) "He wasn't harmed, wasn't killed, nothing bad,"--one has reason to be sceptical.

I was amazed by the scene in which Daniel figured out his "brother" was an imposter. They are sitting on the beach, after a swim.. the brother slips up and cracks appear in his narrative.. the look on DDL's face is incredible. Pain, vexation, a slight hardness, all combined in a hard crease between the eyes.

I could go on and on about this character. I find it to be pure genius, the best character ever portrayed on film. I'd love to hear your opinion on DDL, on Plainview, or on who depicted a better villian and why.

edit on 2-2-2017 by zosimov because: (no reason given)




posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:11 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

He was sooo good in that movie..

He was also a really good villain in Gangs of New York



posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:12 PM
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Seriously one of my favorite movies. Good analysis, I too, think even if some acts were villainous, the man lived by his own strict moral code, and none could fault him for that.

I remember the first time I watched it, I was like "is this a freaking silent movie?"

So glad I stuck it out.

As far as better villains? I'll have to brood over it.

Although Stanley Kubrick's interpretation of The Shining is WAAAY different than the book, I would say ol' Jacky boy played one hell of a good villain.

Javier Bardeem in No Country For Old Men was one bad mama jama too, albeit somehow indestructible.



posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:14 PM
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a reply to: denybedoomed

2 very iconic villains.. this should be an interesting thread down memory lane



posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:15 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

If we are talking all time villains, you have to include Heath ledger's joker



posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:15 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

Daniel Plainview was by far Daniel Day-Lewis' best performance IMO. I continue to be amazed at his intensity every time I watch There Will Be Blood.



posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:21 PM
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Thanks for all the reponses so far! I have so much respect for that man's talent to portray the depths of the human psyche. Just a big fan.

Great examples of other memorable villians. Look forward to hearing more!



posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:24 PM
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I could go on for days about good western villains.

Lee Van Cleef

Jack Elam

Lee Marvin

But I suppose there is a difference in cinema quality, I mean, can you really compare these baddies to Plainview?



posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:26 PM
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a reply to: zosimov


William Cutting!



posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:35 PM
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a reply to: IgnoranceIsntBlisss

Yep, another impeccable performance!



posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:35 PM
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Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell (Robert Knepper)

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posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:36 PM
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Benjamin Linus (Michael Emerson)


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posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:38 PM
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Otis Driftwood (Bill Moseley)


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posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:38 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

Another worthy mention is Hannibal Lector.

And HAL from 2001 a Space Odyssey is the most iconic non-human villain.

And I'll throw in the legend himself Dr.Evil just for fun lol



posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:41 PM
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Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig)


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posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:43 PM
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Yul Brynner portrayed a chilling adversary in Westworld (movie) but definitely lacked the nuance/humanity that makes Plainview so interesting!



There is something fascinating about an enemy devoid of human emotion as well..



posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:43 PM
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Great picks so far, thanks to all!



posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:43 PM
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Doom-Head (Richard Brake)


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posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:45 PM
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High Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt)


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posted on Feb, 2 2017 @ 09:48 PM
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Jake Gyllenhaal portrayed a despicable, slimy character in Nightcrawler. He was truly revolting!



Also Kurtz was soul sucking.




Some great villains out there! (DDL still gets my vote so far)

edit on 2-2-2017 by zosimov because: (no reason given)



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