The Power of the Dog

The Power of the Dog ★★★

Just terribly underwhelming but I guess there's one acclaimed film every year that must claim that spot. The psychological games filled with suggestions, sexual tension, and negotiation of power relations remind me of Losey in the 1960s, and although the cast is more than capable, I don't think Campion had anything new to offer. But I also find myself hesitant to embrace this "genre" of modern psychological art-house thrillers where directors explore ways in which sexuality and power are connected - whether it's The Handmaiden or The Favourite. But in Campion's defense, I must say that I like how she is more interested in the characters than weaving the plot although the absence of dark humor is a notable flaw and makes the film feel a little too dry.

Most of the characters' motivations seem to be a mystery which makes them feel a little flat and oftentimes it feels like Campion wants us to understand them simply by how they look at each other. That is of course connected to the fact that in this film information seems to be power and the cold struggle is meant to be seen as a little distant. Plemons' character is clearly the thing that prevents the battle of minds to turn into open war and therefore Phil and Rose can only fight each other in a roundabout way. The essential piece of the game is Kodi Smit-McPhee's Peter who, unlike Plemons' George, gets involved in the struggle and unlike both Phil and Rose think, he actually has a mind and wit of his own. It's interesting to analyze the film's relations and I'm sure other viewings would reveal something more but that doesn't necessarily mean that the film works.

Without a doubt, Campion is a confident director who knows what she is doing but the result is kind of bland and ultimately the film suffers from vague character development and the characters just remain part of the game instead of becoming something fuller and more autonomous. And as far as Campion's analysis of masculinity goes, I don't think it comes out full circle but remains in individual moments.

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