Very rarely do I feel the need to comment on a film immediately after seeing it; as I feel this is the best work to date for everyone involved. Make no mistake, this is a film for cinephiles; vague and hypnotic through and through. It is not concerned with answers, but questions; which is apt because the biggest questions never seem to have a satisfying answer. With that said, The Master is by no means inscrutable.
As with any great film, there's plenty of subtext to chew on. But at it's core, this is really a story about an Artist and his Muse. Phoenix's character is a train wreck, a tortured soul in search of love and guidance. Inebriated, he finds his way on a boat owned by a charismatic, highly intelligent, seemingly together man; Lancaster Dodd, The Master. *cough* L. Ron Hubbard *cough*
In actuality, Mr. Dodd is an equally tortured man, albeit a highly sophisticated one. A man determined to eliminate the existential woes that plague mankind through a self-devised system of mysticism. He receives a jolt of inspiration upon meeting Freddie Quell, who Dodd sees as the ideal subject. And so begins the relationship of the Artist and his Muse.
What surprised me most was the complexity of their relationship. I prematurely assumed that Quell, a man of vastly inferior intelligence and social status, would simply be a lab rat for the megalomaniac pseudo-scientist. Nothing could've been further from the truth. While they do have a Master / Slave relationship; one cannot function without the other. A true kinship is omnipresent and that is what gives this film so much weight; as you'll see by the sublime conclusion.