The Power of the Dog is an atypical western film set in Montana, in 1925. Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Burbank (Jesse Plemons) are two brothers who take care of their ranch, the largest and most important in the area. But the two have very different ways of approaching work and life in general: Phil is a tough, gruff, grumpy and provocative man, while George is an affable man, always available and with a kind heart.
The Power of the Dog: an atypical western
A woman, Rose (Kirsten Dunst), and her son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) also live near the two brothers’ ranch. Rose’s husband is dead, so she takes care of her son alone, an ephebic boy who is often teased by cowboys for his manner, considered effeminate and not at all manly, especially by Phil.
George, however, does not think at all like his brother, so, one day, he and Rose get married. So the woman goes to live with her son on the ranch and decides to use George’s money to get her son to study. Unfortunately for her, however, Phil believes that he is simply taking advantage of his brother’s wealth, so he begins to ostracize the woman in any case.
Peaceful coexistence on the ranch would seem irremediably undermined by a not at all condescending nature and inclusive of Phil, who, however, slowly begins to get closer to Peter, also teaching him to ride. Phil is actually not as tough as he sounds: this is evident mainly when he talks about an old friend and mentor of his now deceased, “Bronco” Harry, a very important figure in his life and in his training.
The Power of the Dog: great direction and great interpretations
The Power of the Dog is a Netflix Original film directed and scripted by New Zealand screenwriter and director Jane Campion based on the 1967 novel of the same name written by Thomas Savage (find the novel who knew Amazon). Thanks to his incredible performance in directing The Power of the Dog, Jane Campion was awarded the Silver Lion, Special Award for Direction. The director is known primarily for Piano lessons, a film for which he won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1993, and the following year the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. So let’s talk about a director and a screenwriter with proven experience, which makes itself felt even in this latest cinematographic work.
The Power of the Dog is a drama genre film with a western setting, but if you are expecting the classic western with cowboys, horse chases and shootings you will have to revise your expectations. It is in fact a strongly intimist film, all centered on the family and daily life of the main protagonists who bring the story to life.
Although the plot itself may seem not too fascinating after all, what makes it so are, in addition to the direction of Jane Campion, also the performances of the actors: Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Doctor Strange, The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey, Into Darkness – Star Trek) he is a very versatile actor, perfect in his role as a rough-tempered cowboy; Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad) characterizes his George very well; Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man, Melancholia) it is simply flawless, an actress with an undoubted talent incredibly suited to the most dramatic roles and for this reason much loved by the director Sophia Coppola, who has chosen her as the protagonist for several of her films, including Marie Antoinette e The Garden of the Virgins Suicide; Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road, X-Men – Apocalypse) gives his Peter a passionate characterization, portraying him as a meek, tolerant boy with very delicate ways, inclined to dialogue as much as to reflection.
The fascination of the unspoken
The Power of the Dog it is divided into 5 chapters that mark the passage of time inside the story. In the initial parts the protagonists of the story are presented, but the fact that the narration is “slow” could initially destabilize, but it is a very precise narrative choice, also functional to the scanning of the story into chapters. As the events unfold, you will begin to get to know these characters, their lives, their way of thinking and facing life better and better.
A particular detail concerns the dialogues: sometimes they are simple exchanges of words, sometimes they are more dense with information, but perhaps what matters most are the silences, the unspoken words, but whose intrinsic meaning is evident from other details such as a facial expression, or a small gesture. The very meaning of the title of the film must be discovered just by looking at it, since it refers to two distinct scenes, to two distinct factors, each with its own meaning.
The narration of the film is delicate, at times almost suspended, and the fact that it requires a certain attention from the viewer, especially in certain passages, makes him in some way participate in the events themselves, involving him, making him feel part of them.
The Power of the Dog certainly not a film for everyone. It is in fact a sui generis western, authorial, emotionally rich and multifaceted that must be followed with the eyes and with the mind, to grasp all those nuances that it is impossible to grasp with a careless vision. Visually fascinating for naturalistic landscapes and for a chromatic choice that prefers warmer shades, The Power of the Dog it is a film that will certainly fascinate those viewers looking for an atypical narrative that differs greatly from the classic iconography of the western.
The Power of the Dog is available for viewing exclusively on Netflix a this link.
Source: Tom's Hardware by www.tomshw.it.
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