Paul Thomas Anderson has had a cagey relationship with the notion of The Master being “his Scientology movie.” He’s been clear that while it’s based on portions of L. Ron Hubbard’s life, its influences are wider than that, and its true focus is on soldiers after World War II. The film rarely delves into the outrageous space-alien lore of the actual religion, focusing instead on the psychological interplay of its main characters. A new video from Nerdwriter1 explores how that psychology is manipulated in one of the film’s most memorable scenes: the initial audit between Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd and Joaquin Phoenix’s Freddie Quell.
Dodd’s questions are drawn almost directly from the Church’s own Oxford Capacity Analysis, which bears no affiliation with the actual Oxford University. The scene grows more intense as Quell is forced to repeat his own name and asked the same question over and over, eventually falling into a kind of hypnosis. This hypnosis as well as the stress of not being allowed to blink compel him to reveal past traumas, like murder, incest, and a troubled childhood. And so while the film’s concerns are larger than one cult, Nerdwriter1’s point is that the auditing scene accurately portrays the way Hubbard commingled classic psychotherapy with command hypnosis to create an unscrupulous but powerful mastery over his church practitioners. They have little power but to open their checkbook to him, again and again and again—even after the Xenu shit comes out.