Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread is a 2017 Historical Drama film and Paul Thomas Anderson is the Director, writer and cinematographer of this film. (The influential perfectionist who created There Will Be Blood with Daniel Day Lewis and Magnolia) starring Daniel Day Lewis( The only Legendary actor who stands as the recipients 3 Oscar awards for best actor in leading role: My Left foot, There Will Be Blood and Lincoln),Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps.

1950’s London, Reynolds Woodock (Daniel Day Lewis), a professional genius of a dressmaker whose life travels on a different path after meeting with Alma (Vicky Krieps) who soon becomes his greatest obsession and his fantastical muse.

Paul Thomas Anderson, once again, crafts a meticulously researched, complex, realistic and oddly humanistic drama which transcends and challenges the boundaries of the filmmaking craft which starts calmly and soon Woodcock Reynolds appears on the screen dressing himself up in the most precise and accurately, British manner, combing his grey hair with two hands just to prepare the correct appearance and most importantly, to satiate his sense of self importance and then, the film transforms into a remarkable tale of obsession which captures the British society with all it’s politeness, finery,disposition,history,culture and character making visible the hypocrisy, racism, conservative instincts, shrewdness,frustration and all volatile emotions of rudeness lying underneath the charming facade of demeanour.

The setting of the 1950s is elaborated in a profound manner with the finely painted walls,fanciful food-eggs,scones,butter croissants,welsh rabbit and raspberry danish, splendid view of the countryside roads sloping and steeply falling along the green hills with the gloomy shadow of the evening blue, suffocating etiquettes and mannerisms,piercing witticisms and tacit remarks,open and shut doors leading to multiple rooms and multiple emotions,the voices resonating in the doorways and alleys- bitter and sweet and sometimes-menacing,edible omelettes with poisonous mushrooms-beautiful people with venomous emotions.

The music is sewn with profound beauty and almost gothic horror multilayered with complex sounds from the very first frame that are at first impression quite melodious but when you go a little deeper, the ominous darkness reveals itself giving life to the hidden emotions underneath the smiling faces, the suffocation in the beautifully wrought corridors and open villages.

Reynolds Woodcock is the most talented craftsmen who treats his clothes with utmost dignity and obsession, each one sewn with a different emotion dedicated to a different memory of sadness,joy or subtly mournful embedded in each cloth designed to look beautiful and make people look splendid. His contemplative and deeply rigid life is seemingly coloured when young Alma, simple and charming makes her way into his life and becomes his obsessive muse, her part in this film is of a rainbow in a black hole- a flower dancing in the midst of a frozen city. Love on Alma’s side is dominated and oppressed by the violent turbulence of Woodcock’s obsession as he makes her stand straight for hours and hours,taking her measurements,taming her brusquely, making her try different types of dresses and making faces in dismay or giving a wide smile in appreciation of his muse dressed in his creations hardly giving regard about her perception.

Woodcock does not narrate the story but one knows through the imagery, the symbolism and the music that it is his story and his point of view that matters. Woodcock is a person who has accidentally crossed the boundaries of intellect and physical strength in the pursuit of fulfilling his obsession.As each day passes, Woodcock’s stoicism crumbles slowly into dust like one brick falling off a wall every moment, and vulnerability sets in, with each passing day, small but noticeable transformations make conspicuous the heartache and darkness behind the glamorous demeanour, wandering mind, altering moods,irrational and inconstant emotions, dissonant and fragmented speech,thinning skin, frail disposition, scathing comments, deeper wrinkles on the forehead vertical and horizontal,scattered and broken drawings of clothes,clouded vision and judgement, vivid hallucinations and a heart overshadowed by it’s own forged misery.

Alma (Vicky Krieps) becomes Woodcock’s lover and develops a strange taste for sharing Woodcock’s professional obsessions very seriously but is vigorously subdued and most of all, suffocated by the unbearably calm,carefully constructed piercing criticisms and remarks on her by Woodcock.

Cyril(Lesley Manville) works under Woodcock and understands each and every single instinct of Woodcock and is sharply able to retort and craft an appropriate rebuttal to each and every word said by Woodcock, aside from that, she possesses a deep sympathy and care for him which she displays with equal ferocity and conviction.

The story travels through the sloping and falling roads of the gloomy countryside to the roads and the houses filled with Créme de la Créme of the British society moving along place to place with their phrases and witticism murmured and cheered aloud, their obsessions fulfilled and insecurities exposed but at the heart of it, lies Woodcock-stern,scathing,savage and possessed by the sight of his muse,Alma.

Morality is absent in this tale of emotions,people earnestly fulfil their loyalties to suit their emotions and forthrightly break people’s heart to suit their deeper obsessions.

Paul Thomas Anderson is the Director, Writer and Cinematographer of this film. The cinematic mastery lies in the way each and every shot is taken in way which is discernible in the sense as it textures the movie with a classic feel,aside from that,the lens of the camera moves in an almost parallel perfectionist manner as Woodcock designs his clothes. The conversations of the characters create a dazzling flow of conflicting emotions which compels the people to take actions darker than one’s imagination, to delve deeper to fulfil their secret desires and virtual moralities. Every performance is directed to suit the ideas of the film’s thematic depth.

The atmosphere,the feeling and the people capture a sense of the Gothic which is similar to Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights which envelops a sense of poetic horror flowing through the character and scenery.

Reynolds Woodcock has a certain element of Heathcliff in himself which sub consciously or consciously Paul Thomas Anderson might have produced or embedded.

Similarities between Phantom thread and Wuthering Heights:-

  • Darkness and obsession and unwarranted brutality- qualities inherent between Heathcliff and Reynolds
  • Poetic darkness of the Gothic conspicuous and seemingly lurking under the scenery of British countryside and character
  • Morality of obsessions and desires rather than principle

Vicky Krieps pulls off brilliantly the role of Young Alma, subdued and broken by her surroundings but comes back as a menacing person every single time.

Lesley Manville plays her small role strongly as Cyril and commands herself earnestly as someone who can tame Reynolds and understand him.

Above all, one can easily posit the fact that Phantom Thread is a masterful achievement by Paul Thomas Anderson whose genius shines in every frame of the film and with all due respect, my heart calls out to Daniel Day Lewis who has given a magical performance which can earn him another Oscar for best actor In a leading role- Reynolds Woodcock could never have been as breathtaking without Daniel’s craftsmanship and intellect.

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