Director: Jane Campion | Scenario: Jane Campion | To throw: Benedict Cumberbatch (Phil Burbank), Jesse Plemons (George Burbank), Kirsten Dunst (Rose Gordon), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Peter Gordon), Thomasin McKenzie (Lola), Peter Carroll (of ‘Old Gent’), Frances Conroy (of ‘Old Lady’), ea | Playtime: 126 minutes | Year: 2021
He calls his brother a big stupid man. With his leather leggings, he paraded around his ranch as if he were king. When Peter, a mild-tempered teenager, serves him in a restaurant, he humiliates the boy with enough venom to kill a buffalo. Phil Burbank is the dominant male. The ‘chief honcho’. He’s asserting himself everywhere, because that’s the lesson his mentor Bronco Henry taught him: to be a man. And then the wacky brother George comes home with Peter’s mother in his hand.
The pianoDirector Jane Campion must have read in Thomas Savage’s book of the same name how a piano was dragged to a distant place and thought, “This is totally my thing!” It probably also helps to take a critical look at mean male stereotypes. And that his home country, New Zealand, could very well pass for the US state of Montana. Add a fantastic cast and you have The power of the dog.
This is the type of film that will no longer be made without Netflix’s intervention. Previously, famous filmmakers such as the Coen brothers, Martin Scorsese and Alfonso Cuarón were given a bag of money to bring personal vision and a beloved project to the big screen. In addition, the streaming service is always looking for an Oscar for best film, to give itself more legitimacy. Now they have given Campion the opportunity to direct a feature film for the first time in twelve years.
In a few shots, you can feel the hand of a filmmaker who knows exactly what she is doing. The serene movement of the camera, which follows Benedict Cumberbatch’s footsteps in the distance in front of a series of open windows, was thus titled “Significant!” ” may have. And so every shot and every cut is dripping with interest. But more than that, a deep confidence expresses the moments when the camera is hung for a long time to capture even more nuance. Each image is neither too much nor too little, and is exactly where it should be.
And while Cumberbatch goes out of his way to take down a bully of Phil, the nuance mentioned above is certainly there. Little interactions between Brother George and his fiancée Rose are full of tasty details and Kodi Smit-McPhee navigates beautifully between a very sensitive and artistic side and one in which he looks or blushes for nothing. Young Peter knows how to fold the most beautiful paper flowers, but also dreams of becoming a surgeon. In other words, he has to train.
No matter how hard the rest plays, the bulk of the Oscars buzz still centers on Dunst, who, as the wife of a weaker man, is partly weighed down by the dominance of his envious brother-in-law. When George bought a piano especially for Rose, she does her best not to sound too bad when she has to play for the visiting governor. She jostles in her old repertoire. But Phil, who perfectly masters the banjo, wins in a musical power play. And later, when he feels like tormenting her again, he hisses a few notes of the happy tune she was repeating. Dunst leaps off the screen in his tortured helplessness.
The power of the dog but it is above all a film of objects, because sometimes an accessory says more than a whole dialogue. A finely polished Bronco Henry saddle, a rolled up cigarette, a piece of stripped cowhide and a tunnel of withered branches. These things stay with you, perhaps more than the screams of an angry Phil and the knowing looks of a silent Peter. The strength of the dog is also made more visible in the environment than in the game. Netflix has another winner, but also an Oscar winner? Then they have to keep the momentum going for a long time to come.
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