|Benedict Cumberbatch (foreground), |
New Zealand (background
The biggest problem with The Power of the Dog, and I agree with Christos Tsiolkas in The Saturday Paper totally about this, is Benedict Cumberbatch's performance as directed by Jane Campion. In any case I have several issues with this movie, much as I do with The Piano (which I do not care for at all.)
When Campion goes into arthouse mode there's a sharp distancing from the characters and an absorption in setting that tips the movies into Malick-like pictorialism. Admittedly in both these movies she has New Zealand and our amazing high UV light to photograph. But I never once bought Cumberbatch's reading of the part and frankly I don't have much time for the story. Comparisons are always odious but I will nevertheless make the obvious one with Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain.
Heath Ledger's performance in Brokeback is an great piece of interior acting, in which virtually nothing is exteriorized or dramatized in any look-at-me manner. And Lee, consumate director that he is, understands that Ledger's performance (as well as the other players) particularly shines in big open compositions and staging, surrounded by air and landscape all of which serves to amplify the interior drama of these torn men (and rarely women.)
I really think the mountains of praise for Power are drowning the small merits it actually does possess.