The long wait was worth it: Everything is just right in Jane Campion’s western drama “The Power of the Dog”.

The New Zealand director Jane Campion took her time: Twelve years have passed since her last film “Bright Star”, four since the second season of her TV series “Top of the Lake”. This year she presented her new work in Venice and won the award for best director.

Jane Campion can too in spend a lot of time in their films. Your scenes and pictures need this time to develop their full potential. And “The Power of the Dog” is powerful, this deconstruction of the myth of the strong man.

Two brothers and their cattle

The Late West is set in the 1920s, in the US state of Montana with its mountains, which form a terrific backdrop for this epic story.

The two brothers Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Burbank (Jesse Plemons) run a cattle ranch. They have been driving cattle across the country together for 25 years, explains Phil at the beginning of the film. A long time, confirms George.

Disturbed comfort zone

The brothers are different: Phil is the charismatic, strong, unwashed warrior. He sets the tone, deliberately insults and hurts anyone who looks weak – and thus entertains his cowboys.

His brother George is less eloquent. He is more sensitive, calmer and, above all, much more polite towards those around him. The fragile but functioning brother relationship is disrupted when George marries the widow Rose (Kirsten Dunst) and she moves in with son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) on the farm.

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Phil reacts to the disturbance of his comfort zone with toxic masculinity and drives the initially happy Rose more and more into despair.


Rose (Kirsten Dunst) disrupts the fragile brotherly relationship.

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Memories of “The Piano”

A piano also plays an important role in these power games. A reminiscence of Campion’s first great success “The Piano”. And here, too, it is a symbol of a piece of civilization in the wilderness. But in contrast to “The Piano”, this love story and jealous drama with a strong female figure, “The Power of the Dog” focuses on a man.

Phil’s facade of the “Lonely Wolf” is crumbling more and more. Behind this comes a sensitive, unhappy and surprisingly highly educated person. The young Peter finally manages to break through Phil’s wall of distrust and callousness – to the amazing end.


Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee, right) manages to break the walls of Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch).

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Old material meets zeitgeist

The film is based on a novel from 1967. This is amazing because Jane Campion’s film is a cutting-edge and contemporary deconstruction of Western myth and a careful study of different forms of masculinity. “A man is made out of patience and against him out of all circumstances,” says Phil once.

Campion’s film shows how injury leads to hardening, hardening to brutality and what such brutality can ultimately do. All of this is told very slowly, with reduced dialogues, long shots, grandiose images and a selectively good acting ensemble.

Benedict Cumberbatch shines as Phil like never before. With “The Power of the Dog”, Jane Campion shows once more that she is a master of directing, where every shot, every look, every word, every silence is spot on.

The title masterpiece is definitely appropriate for this film.

Theatrical release: November 18, 2021

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