New Trailer for The Master Inches Closer to Scientology

Slate's Culture Blog
June 19 2012 10:01 AM

New Trailer for The Master Inches Closer to Scientology

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Philip Seymour Hoffman in the new trailer for The Master

The first trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming film The Master was compelling: Cut by Anderson himself and scored by Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood, it centered on a long monologue by a nearly unrecognizable—but charismatic as ever—Joaquin Phoenix. That said, the trailer conspicuously steered clear of any material connecting the film to Scientology. That connection has been a matter of some debate—not surprisingly, given the Church of Scientology’s reputation for litigiousness.

But today’s new trailer brings those parallels to the fore: This time, Phoenix is joined by Philip Seymour Hoffman, playing Lancaster Dodd, who describes himself as “a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist, a theoretical philosopher.” He has obvious delusions of grandeur, in other words, and appears to be a master manipulator, who tells Phoenix’s Freddie Quell that he’s “wandered from the proper path” (and also that he seems “so familiar”). By the end of the trailer—which, as an aside, is really exquisitely done, far surpassing even the best quick-cutting Hollywood efforts—he seems to be giving Quell a “stress-test type quiz,” as the Playlist notes. Such stress tests have become a familiar feature of Scientology recruitment.

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According to early reports about the movie, Quell eventually becomes disillusioned with Dodd—and, in the trailer’s dramatic ending, we get our first glimpse of that narrative turn as well.  “I know you're trying to calm me down,” he shouts, “but just say something that's true!”

The Master is scheduled to arrive in theaters in October.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog. Follow him on Twitter.