German audiences get lucky this month by having the chance to watch Jane Campion’s new film – her first since 2009’s Bright Star – before it hits Netflix early December. And passing on seeing The Power of the Dog on the big screen should not be an option.
Based on the 1967 novel of the same name by Thomas Savage, The Power of the Dog is a thematically-layered and eerily gorgeous Neo-Western set in 1920s Montana. It sees George Burbank (Jesse Plemons) marry a local widow, Rose (Kirsten Dunst), who comes to live on the ranch with her son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee). The snag is that his brother, Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch, giving one of his best performances yet), ain’t best pleased with this arrangement, especially not with the young’un’s sensitive nature.
No more shall be spoiled here, except to say that the beautifully sensorial end result features a subtly profound meditation on alpha-male masculinity (with a simmering queer underpinning) and a memorable last-act twist, all graced with a score by Jonny Greenwood that is truly a thing of beauty. The jury at this year’s Venice Film Festival awarded Campion the Silver Lion for Best Director, a more than merited gong, even if her efforts could have comfortably earned her the top prize. It’s safe to assume that this gripping and ambitious film will be a shoe-in for Best Picture at 2022’s Oscars. What a powerful dog.
The Power of the Dog / D: Jane Campion (US, New Zealand, 2021), with Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst, Kodi Smit-McPhee. Starts: November 18.