The official teaser from auteur Jane Campion’s first film in over a decade, The Power Of The Dog, has it all: Mystery, tension, eeriness, all encompassed by beautiful shots that highlight the Western landscape. Dare we say, it’s even a little sexy? The rope tying, running fingers through a fine comb, the low stares, the whistling? The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee, and from the shot of the delicate wheat grazed with blood, somebody’s dying by the end of this film.
Based on the 1967 novel by Thomas Savage, the film is set in the 1920s and tells the story of Montana ranchers Phil (Cumberbatch) and George Burbank (Plemons). The wealthy and brutal Phil manages to stoke fear in everyone around him, a feeling that’s palpable in the trailer. When George marries widower Rose (Dunst), and brings her back home along with her son Peter (Smit-McPhee), Phil torments them until he finds himself exposed to the possibility of love. The only one who utters any words throughout the trailer is Kirsten Dunst, calling Cumberbatch’s character “just a man.” Yes, just a man who can whistle really well and apparently dole out some emotional torture.
The New Zealand director’s previous film was 2009's Bright Star, which received critical acclaim and earned an Oscar nomination for costume design. Her 1993 film The Piano won the Palme d’Or (she was the first woman in history to achieve this), as well as the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Campion was the second woman director in the history of the Academy Awards to receive the nomination for best director for her work on The Piano. In addition to The Power Of The Dog being Campion’s first film in 12 years, it stands out as her first film with a male lead in her 40 year-long career.
“Right from the beginning of my career, it’s been women’s stories because women have been completely flipping ignored,” she said in an interview with Vanity Fair. “It was kind of a mission, and it would have felt like a huge betrayal. Even though I see myself as an artist who can go anywhere, I still felt this natural, but also political, necessity to cleave toward women.”
The Power of the Dog will be released in select theaters on Nov. 17 and debut on Netflix on Dec. 1.