The director competing with “The Power of the Dog”, from the novel by Thomas Savage. “The era of toxic masculinity is also ending in cinema
In 2019 when she was called by the Academy Awards to pay homage to Lina Wertmuller at the Governors Awards, she got away with a few words. “I was asked to talk about the history of women in the category of the Oscars for directing. It is very short, shorter than a haiku ». Here in Venice 78 Jane Campion – first and only until a few months ago, director to win a Palme d’Or, in 1983 with Piano lessons – uses more. It is competing with The Power of the Dog (on Netflix from 1 December, first also in theaters) treated on toxic masculinity from the novel by Thomas Savage, set in 1925 in the very deep West impervious to change. Which, on the other hand, “is taking place in the world of cinema, thanks to #MeToo. It’s like the fall of the Berlin wall, the end of apartheid for us. All women are doing well. Chloe Zhao – here on the jury after the 2020 Golden Lion, ed – won the Oscar with Nomadland. Julie Ducornau the Palme d’Or. If you offer them a chance there is nothing they cannot do, even in the cinema, as already on television. The statistics are not yet in our favor but it seems to me that women have more courage and are receiving more support from men ».
Campion hadn’t made a film since 2009, since Bright Star. And it is a world that is completely turned to the masculine one in which he immerses himself, for the first time, entrusting the protagonist Benedict Cumberbatch with the role of champion of machismo and homophobia. A repressed and arrogant cowboy, Phil, unlike his brother George (Jesse Plemons), with whom he manages a rich ranch in the prairies of Montana (but is shot in New Zealand) and with whom he also shares a bedroom. When George marries widow Rose (Kristen Dunst), mother of teenage son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Phil’s rock-hard certainties are in danger of shattering. A great investigator of the feminine (also in the Top of the Lake series), the director was guided by Savage’s novel. “It’s a deep, emotional journey, it has had a great effect on me. At the beginning I didn’t think of making a film of it, given the many male characters and the themes so linked to virility, to ambiguous masculinity ». Phil’s ambiguity, his “pain and terrible loneliness” won her over. “And I felt the importance and strength of each character, the strength of the isolation of each of them. Like Rose: she is a woman from 1925, I think it was very difficult for her to complain to her husband about her brother-in-law’s brutality, she felt inadequate ». For the Londoner Cumberbatch an unusual but, he assures, fascinating role. “Phil is the result of his upbringing. I do not judge or condone it, but I can understand it I understand. He is a man with no possibility of redemption, it is his personal tragedy: he is on the defensive, he is alone, oppressed, there is nothing authentic in his life. You recognize toxic masculinity, damaged people tend to harm others, we have also seen it in some politicians. It is a problem to face rather than lock up the monster and throw away the key ».
September 2, 2021 (change September 7, 2021 | 12:00)