Before seeing Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, I had heard that it was extremely weird, extremely confusing, but with spectacular acting. For the most part, I agree with that opinion: however, I found myself understanding what the film was trying to get across. To start, the film is (supposedly) loosely based on the origins of Scientology and follows the events of a World War II veteran named Freddie Quell. Freddie is played by Joaquin Phoenix, and his performance is supercharged to the max with emotion and character, and is a perfect demonstration of what Phoenix can do. Freddie stumbles upon a man named Lancaster Dodd, who is the leader of a "religious" movement known in the film as "The Cause" (supposedly based on Scientology). If I remember correctly, the film never acknowledges the word "religion" or even "Scientology" at all. Anderson did not want us to view this film as a movie about religion, but a film about following a set of rules, whether they're your own rules or someone else's. Dodd is a fascinating character, one of the most fascinating people I've ever seen in film. He is played by the also fantastic Philip Seymour Hoffman, who steals every scene he's in... well, maybe not steals, but he commands them with his charismatic voice and will to lead. Let's just say he plays his part VERY VERY well, as Phoenix does with his. There's a scene I want to talk about that I think defines the film for what it really is: around when Freddie first meets Dodd, Dodd conducts a series of questions on Freddie he calls "processing." He asks Freddie to answer as quickly as he can, without thinking. The questions he asks him are extremely personal and the contrast of Freddie's emotional state from when the questions begin and when they end is like night and day. He starts out being the cocky animalistic idiot that he is and ends up being a broken, confused, helpless little man. Dodd chewed him up and spit him back out in about five minutes' time. From then on, Freddie is taken under Dodd's wing and does whatever his new master commands, and then some. In the end, the film conveys the very powerful message that no matter what you try to do, you can't live life without following a set of rules or principles, whether they're your own personal morals or that of a religion's: otherwise, society would not be able to function, similarly as to how Freddie was barely functioning before he met Dodd, being a sex-addicted alcoholic. On the surface, The Master is an extremely strange film depicting really strange sex scenes and gratuitous nudity, but if you can get a grasp, even if it isn't a firm one, around what Anderson is trying to say with The Master, then you'll find that it is a masterpiece.