At the same time powerful and restrained cowboy movie, Reign of the Dog (2021) is a revisionist western in form, but in essence a deep drama. This is a family story from the life of a Chthoni of the American West in the 1920s, but it is quite projected onto modern life. You want to empathize with the main characters, because there are lost personalities like them even now. The film touches on important themes – about the nature of loneliness, about the desires of the repressed and the liberated, about the tragedy of a broken soul.
Phil and George’s ranch is the richest and most successful ranch in Montana. Many in the area would like to work for the Burbank brothers. One is fully engaged in economic activities, the other is engaged in accounting, paperwork. Such a fraternal and business union suits everyone and gives good results. Farmers are respected, but treated with caution. Men are very different, and not only externally, but also by nature.
Sharp and angry, Phil is impulsive and tough. A strong and strong dork in a stetson is the idol of local auxiliary workers, he overtakes the herd and alone can castrate the bull. A supporter of the traditional semi-wild way of life of a cowboy. Calm, kind, intelligent George is a button-down American. Educated, businesslike, gets along well with people. He likes order, dresses stylishly, drives a car. Strives for the best and seeks change in life.
However, the film is not about how progress is being introduced into the life of adherents of the old order in the USA of the 1920s. On the example of the inhabitants of the ranch, “The Power of the Dog” describes the problem of loneliness and the search for the meaning of life. At the same time, the director presents the story of broken souls ambiguously, leaving the viewer room for reflection and their own conclusions.
The Burnbank fraternal union is in danger of falling apart when George becomes infatuated with the pretty widow of the owner of a local diner. Poor Rose Gordon, after the wedding, enters as a hostess into a rich house with oak panels, paintings and stuffed animals on the walls. It is difficult for a woman to get used to a different way of life. Her unsociable and embittered son Pete, who is not adapted to rural life, causes many problems. Phil is against the invasion of strangers into their measured life and intends to upset his brother’s marriage. At first, he scoffs at the new family members in every possible way, but later he notices something similar to himself in the teenager and becomes close to him. But the relationship between Phil and Peter is far from related color.
The essence of the film is that the characters are in the closest relationship only formally. In fact, none of the four have the right to give free rein to their own feelings and experiences, since they cannot count on love and understanding from the other. They feel alone and unable to rally together against the harsh reality of being. This is clearly striking against the backdrop of the boundless freedom of the natural landscape and the smooth flow of life for both animals and people.
Relationships between the inhabitants of a huge ranch either twist into a ball, or unwind into threads of personal problems. The main thing is that each of them feels uncomfortable, lonely and tries to hide from others.
Rose becomes isolated, depressed and increasingly “looks at the bottom of the bottle.” Pete has built himself a secret hideout where he hides from bullying about his “too feminine” behavior. George abstracts, optimistically believing that everything will turn over. Phil constantly provokes conflicts, aggressing towards all household members.
The drama of the situation lies in the fact that the characters are in the same position, although each is unhappy in his own way. Therefore, they deal with difficulties in their own way. As a result, their past seems to be not so dark and rough. And for others, the future is not so bright and unknown. In the finale, conscious calmness and grace come to everyone – at the cost of terrible torment and inner experiences.
The British drama film The Power of Dog, which is based on the book of the same name by Thomas Savage, has a different translation of the title – “The Power of the Dog”. Both refer to Ps 21:21, in which David calls on the Lord to deliver his lonely soul from the sword and the dogs. Initially, in the Bible, dogs were depicted as scavengers, and also reminded of the sinful burden of man. There is also a metaphor in the picturesque humpbacked mountain, near which the inhabitants of the ranch live: the outlines of a dog’s head are seen in it.