I greatly enjoyed the movie that I attended with Dr. Webber and other members of the class. It tells the story of a miner who becomes an extremely wealthy oil man – but at a great cost. I had expected the movie to be more “preachy,” criticizing capitalism or oil directly. Instead, I feel old fashioned greed was an underlying theme. Daniel, the miner, lives a generally solitary (his only companion his adopted son) life as he pursues his goals without hindrance until he crosses paths with another ambitious man, Eli. Eli’s choice of profession – preacher – helps create an interesting rival for Daniel. Under the guise of helping his church, Eli quietly torments Daniel throughout the movie.
I appreciated the slow(ish) pace and that the movie was “quiet.” Many other movies (including really good ones like “The Kingdom”) are full of explosions, yelling and sometimes unnecessary complications. I felt that the characters and their respective situations drove the pace of the movie and carried the weight that “action” usually pulls. The quality of acting went a long way in helping me understand the attraction of the lifestyle that most of the oil pioneers lived. I felt a rush when they struck oil and felt the sense of power that came with possibilities that oil brought. I think there must have been more than money motivating these people to take the risks they did.
Oil represented possibilities beyond riches to people. There was an opportunity to play a role in building up a relatively very new nation – a country with unsure borders that was still seen as full of endless possibilities. Oil gave the common person a chance to take part in this, to support industry growth and fuel inventions to better everyone’s lives. Daniel was consumed by his greed, but I think many other people in his position survived oil prospecting with their kindness intact – take Rockefeller whom we heard about in lecture.
The movie begins with the scene of the death of one oil working and continues with scenes of hardship and more death. We see how hard people had to work to make our lives the way they are (for better and worse). I have to wonder how many of them could really understand how far-reaching an impact oil would have. As we all know, it’s more than a fuel. It means medication, health care, food...And it’s what ultimately allowed for the advances in technology that we have. For all the bad we see in oil now, I think it is important to remember that we owe it a lot. Personally, I don’t believe we could possibly have made the advances we have as quickly as we have without oil (and coal…). Though I do think it’s time to move on.