The Straits Times
Published on Sep 01, 2012

Scientology-inspired The Master casts spell at Venice fest


VENICE, Italy (AFP) - The film The Master kept viewers spellbound at the Venice festival on Saturday with Philip Seymour Hoffman playing a charismatic leader loosely based on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Hoffman's character takes a troubled World War II vet played by a feral Joaquin Phoenix under his wing in this latest work by Oscar-winner Paul Thomas Anderson, director of Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood. The film starts with Phoenix as Freddie Quell and his rapid descent into alcoholism and mental illness after the end of the war. He is rescued by Hoffman's Lancaster Dodd, who vows to treat him as "my guinea pig and protege".

Although there are no explicit references to Scientology in the film, there are strong parallels between that religion and Dodd's The Cause.

According to a report by online news site The Daily Beast last month, Anderson freely admits the film is inspired by Hubbard.