Campion's grand return
This year's recipient of the Stockholm Lifetime Achievement Award, Jane Campion, takes on the western genre with bravura in her latest masterpiece - through meticulous means and magnificent performances, the film oozes off desire and aggression.
We are in Montana in 1925. But here there are no traces of the happy twenties to be found. It is thus much later on in history than the time for the average Wild West films, so the place and time cast a looming shadow over the story of a man's convulsive grip on a bygone era. At the ranch that Phil and George own, the past is constantly present. They are two cowboy brothers, one magnetic but cruel, the other gentle and quiet. George has married the widow Rose who moves there with her son Peter, to Phil's great annoyance.
When Jane Campion transforms Thomas Savage's novel into a film, she makes it her own, and although the western genre is new to her, there are several recognizable Campion motifs: repressed desire, violence and self-destructive macho culture. Benedict Cumberbatch embodies the alpha male Phil, whose suppressed desires and impulses of violence can be traced in every raised eyebrow and wicked grin – and his performance is a possible career best.
Campion herself is hesitant to calling the film a western – the story is more specific.
- I see this film as a departure from my previous films, says Campion, but perhaps it can also be seen as a reflection of »The Piano«. It is another magnificent landscape film that explores the myth of the man.
Suppressed sexuality is a common thread that runs through several of her films, and in »The Power of the Dog« it is Phil's sexuality that is kept behind bars – with devastating consequences. The result is an icy and powerful psychological drama that is told and directed with both precision and nerve. Campion is simply in her prime.
Jane Campion will receive the Bronze Horse and participate in a Face2Face conversation in connection with the Red Carpet screening of her film »The Power of the Dog« at Skandia, 18:00 on Saturday Nov 13.
Words: Sonya Helgesson Ralevic