What kind of “Power of the Dog” do the heroes of the Western get rid of
Country: UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada
Genre: Drama, Western
Year of production: 2021
Director: Jane Campion
Actors: Benedict Cumberbatch. Kristen Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Cody Smith-McPhee, Genevieve Lemon
tagline: “What does it mean to be a man”
Many viewers misunderstood the plot and meaning of the movie Power of the Dog (original title The Power of the Dog). This is confirmed by reviews and reviews on thematic forums. There is a simple and logical explanation for this. The audience expected to see a typical cowboy movie, but got a drama where there is no dynamic development of the plot and in fact nothing happens. The essence of the film is to show the relationship of people, where each hero of the story is unhappy in his own way. To understand the hidden meaning of “The Power of the Dog”, we will analyze the content and find the idea laid down by the director.
The description of the film “The Power of the Dog” will begin with the definition of time and location. The events take place in 1925 in Montana. A rather unusual time for the country when Republican Calvin Coolidge is in power. America is in a stage of powerful economic growth.
The heroes of the story are two brothers: Phil and George Burbank, who own a large ranch and lead the life of wealthy landowners. Events begin with the fact that the brothers, along with their workers, drive cattle. On the way, they stop at an inn, where they meet the owner of a small saloon, Rose Gordon. She is a widow, she is raising her son Peter, he helps her with household chores.
Benedict Cumberbatch played the role of Phil Burbank. Frame from the film.
George falls in love with a pretty widow and soon proposes to her. The woman and her son move to the ranch, much to Phil’s displeasure. He does not believe Rose, he is sure that the woman is pursuing selfish goals and wants to ensure her son’s future at the expense of her dead brother. Peter Gordon is presented as a tongue-tied and effeminate person. He has obvious communication problems, although the guy is going to become a surgeon.
George spoils his wife in every possible way and even buys a piano for her. During a dinner party attended by the governor, everyone asks Rose to play, but she fails. This gives a new reason for the treatment of women by Phil. Rose is broken, starts to take the bottle.
Events begin to develop when Peter arrives for the holidays. At the ranch, everyone mocks him, so the guy does not communicate with anyone. One day, walking around the territory, he discovers a small clearing with a lake – Phil’s favorite place, where there is no way for outsiders. A man notices a freshly baked relative and drives him away.
After a while, Phil suddenly changes his attitude towards the guy. He is going to make a real cowboy out of him, promises to weave a rope from rawhide and teach him how to handle it. Peter becomes close to Phil, which angers Rose. She senses danger in her husband’s brother, but she can’t do anything. A real male friendship is born between Phil and Peter. The tongue-tied kid walks in cowboy boots and is quite confident in the saddle.
Jesse Plemons as George Burbank, Kirsten Dunst as Rose. Frame from the film.
One day, Phil and his ward go to a remote part of the ranch to put up a fence. Here they notice a rabbit huddled under a load of poles. They dismantle this blockage to find out how long the animal will jump out. During the throwing of the poles, Phil scratches his hand hard, and bandages his hand with a handkerchief. The rabbit’s leg is broken, and Peter puts him out of his misery by breaking his neck.
Soon a scandal breaks out at the ranch. Phil does not allow anyone to give the skins of dead cows, so the housekeeper refuses passing Indians who are buying. However, a tipsy Rose catches up with the dealers and offers them to pick up the skins for free, receiving a pair of gloves as a gift.
This infuriates Phil. He yells that he needs the skins, but the situation is smoothed over by Peter, who reveals that he has some skin that Phil can take to finish the rope. The man calms down and soaks the skin that Peter previously cut off from the body of a cow that has died from illness. Phil does not know about it, the poison penetrates the blood and in the morning the man cannot get out of bed. George takes him to the hospital, but Phil dies. At the funeral, the doctor suggests that the cause of death was anthrax. George denies this possibility, because his brother never touched cows that died from illness.
After the funeral, Peter pushes the rope woven by Phil under the bed, after protecting his hands with gloves. Through the window, he watches his mother kissing George in the street. A wicked smile appears on the boy’s face. Shooting ranges. The final.
The meaning of the ending of the film “Power of the Dog” looks ambiguous, and it is Peter’s smile that causes an ambiguous interpretation. In general, the ending of the story is quite natural. The interpretation here is as follows. Peter turned out to be a pretty smart guy. He sees Phil’s attitude towards his mother and promises Rose to arrange everything.
He cuts off the skin of a cow that has died from anthrax, after which he slips it to Phil. As a result, he becomes infected and dies. Peter is smart and cool. Like all “nerds”, the boy is closed, while he knows exactly how to achieve his goals. He handles Phil’s murder flawlessly. To do this, he first converges with his enemy and accepts his rules of the game.
At the same time, Peter clearly has the makings of a real cowboy. According to the meaning of the film “Power of the Dog”, he is the only one, except for Phil himself, who could see the head of a howling dog on the mountainside. With this, he bribes Phil, in whom fatherly feelings seem to wake up.
However, Peter’s interest in cowboy romance is just a game. Otherwise, he will not be able to get close to a man. At the same time, the guy unequivocally declares that he wants to become a surgeon, so he does not need the ability to handle a lasso and other skills of a real cowboy.
Cody Smith-McPhee as Peter. Frame from the film.
Let’s try to find an explanation for the ending in the final scene. The clue to Peter’s smile could be next. The guy is pleased that he was able to get rid of the authoritarian Phil, who poisons Rose’s life. Surely smart Peter guesses what caused his mother’s alcohol addiction. Now that the ranch has passed into the full disposal of George, Rose will be able to feel like a full-fledged hostess.
The second option is that George will be next in line. He is a civilized guy and naive in his own way. It won’t be hard to get rid of this. However, such an arrangement is unlikely. The fact is that Peter himself will not live on a ranch, and a woman alone will not pull such a farm. Moreover, the problems with alcohol have not disappeared, so Rose needs George.
The meaning of the film
If the end of the film “Power of the Dog” is more or less clear, then the general meaning needs to be dealt with. The paradox of history lies in the fact that each of the heroes has problems with which they are left alone. It looks something like this:
- Phil. A cowboy boy who idolizes his idol Bronco Henry. He taught him everything, and judging by the story, Phil is connected with that man not only by friendship, but also by closer relations. He feels that the time of the cowboys is running out, so he constantly turns his thoughts to the past, and splashes out his anger on those around him. At the same time, Phil is superbly versed in people, so he subconsciously feels the threat posed by Rose. It is noteworthy, but his intuition fails him.
- George. This is a typical representative of his time. He is a respectable American, “buttoned up.” George dresses well, taking a bath at the very beginning of the film, which contrasts sharply with Phil, who washes with mud in the pond. At the same time, George is clearly dead. He is in the shadow of his brother, and without Phil, he would hardly have been able to achieve his position in society.
- Rose. The typical single mother. Her husband hanged himself, and now she is trying to protect her son and provide him with a decent future. At the beginning of the film, she cries in the kitchen from impotence, because she can’t oppose anything to the uncouth cowboys and drunken cream of society who visit her institution. Her tears attract George, and the widow immediately agrees to a profitable marriage. Does she love her husband? Unlikely. She is clearly uncomfortable at the ranch, which provokes problems with alcohol. At the same time, she does not try to establish herself here and simply goes with the flow.
- Peter. The most interesting character. He catches a rabbit, which is liked by the mother and the young maid. However, then the boy calmly dissects the animal, because he needs to train. He very cleverly manipulates Phil, saw through his obviously homosexual nature and provokes the interest of a man. However, this is a game necessary to lull vigilance. His task is to rid the ranch of Phil, and he solves it brilliantly.
In general, in its subtext, “The Power of the Dog” resembles the notorious “Brokeback Mountain”. Only here homosexuality is not exposed and hidden within the plot. However, it’s safe to assume that Phil had an affair with Bronco Henry. Taking patronage over Peter, he tried to try on the role of his idol, but underestimated the boy.
Frame from the film.
The meaning of the name
The meaning of the name “The power of the dog” refers us to the Bible. This is part of a quotation from one of the psalms, which goes like this: “Deliver my soul from the sword and the power of the dog.” In the context of the film’s story, the dog’s power is Phil. He is the full-fledged owner of the farm, he runs the household almost alone, shows his rudeness. But if the quote sounds like an appeal to God, then in the film Peter punishes the “dog” – cold-blooded and cynical.
Based on this quote, everyone was released: Rose, Peter, and George. However, serious doubts can be expressed about the latter. The man is phlegmatic, and without the support of his brother he will not be able to develop the ranch. There will be no one to help him. Peter will move to the city, and Rose may well turn into a complete alcoholic.
Another interpretation of the name: outwardly masculine and internally vulnerable, Phil wants to free himself from the power of his inner demons, shame and pain that his latent homosexuality inflicts on him.