Saturday, February 9, 2008

Books Turned Into Movies: Upton Sinclair's Oil becomes There Will Be Blood

Books Turned Into Movies:

Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel Oil becomes the 2008 Oscar nominated film There Will Be Blood starring Daniel Day Lewis.

How do they stack up?

The Leading Man
: The protagonist of Sinclair's Oil is Joe Ross while the new movie adaptation's leading man is Daniel Plainview. In the book Joe Ross is a slightly more mysterious figure as the reader is never really informed of his background and how exactly he's become involved in the oil business. Movie goers see a much more detailed history of Daniel Plainview, his life before oil, and his rise to oil magnate status. Both characters are hungry for profit and success but Plainview is by far the more ruthless in his quest for riches.

The Boy: One of the most touching aspects of There Will Be Blood is the early relationship between Daniel Day Lewis' Plainview and the orphan child H.W. whom Plainview raises as his own son. Oil's Joe Ross has a son as well, Bunny but the child is his actual son. The relationship between both men and their prospective sons is an important part of both the movie and the book. In the interest of not ruining either, I'll stop there. Another interesting thing to note is that Bunny Ross is the main character in Sinclair's Oil. The book is told through the eyes of Bunny as both he and the reader are taught important lessons about the oil business. There Will Be Blood focuses much more heavily on Daniel Plainview but there remains very much an element of Plainview's need to teach his son the tricks and trades of the business.

The Town: Both the book and the film use California as a setting, focusing on fictional towns very similar to Signal Hill, a prolific oil field in the 1920's which Sinclair is known to have visited.

The Preacher: Perhaps the most similar character in the book and the movie is that of the zealous preacher of the California oil town where Ross and Plainview set up business. The book's preacher, named Eli Watkins,
is a famous preacher . The movie's preacher, Eli Sunday, is a well-known faith healer who starts his own church. Both Eli's become successful religious figures, both have a twin brother Paul who also plays a part in the over all story. Perhaps even more importantly both preachers face situations in which it becomes increasingly difficult to practice what they preach.

A lover of books, I am always the first one to say read the book first. Upton Sinclair has written a captivating and truthful novel that remains as relevant today as it was eighty years ago. On the other hand, Daniel Day Lewis has delivered an amazing performance as Daniel Plainview -- one that will more than likely be rewarded when Oscar night rolls around. For that reason I would suggest seeing the movie soon so that you will have witnessed the work of an accomplished actor when he stands up to receive the award.


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