A cowboy’s tough veneer is cracked in this sequence from “The Power of the Dog,” Jane Campion’s period look at the American West.
The film (on Netflix) features Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank, a man who spends a lot of time on the family ranch he runs with his brother (Jesse Plemons), making life unpleasant for many of those around him, namely his brother’s new wife, Rose (Kirsten Dunst), and her son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee).
But in this scene, which comes late in the movie, Phil has been warming up to Peter, and invites the younger man to watch him work on the weaving of a rope. The sequence has elements of a seduction, though the intentions of each character may be more complex than what they seem in the moment.
In her narration, Campion said she loved the scene because “it’s the culmination of their relationship and so many different parts of the film that have been seeded right from the very beginning coming together.”
The dialogue here is spare. It’s more about glances, close-ups of rope work and the methodical way the two characters feel each other out. An eerie and heightened score by Jonny Greenwood add to the tension of the moment.
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