I could summarise the plot quite easily but that would give the game away for readers who haven't yet seen "The Power of the Dog". Rough and ready rancher Phil Burbank is played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch. He is the central character - a brooding, troubled figure who lives with shadows of the past - especially an old cowboy called Bronco Henry. Of him, Phil says, "Greatest rider I ever knew...He taught me to use my eyes in ways that other people can't."
What do we want from films? Do we want clarity, resolution, explanation, certainty? If that is what you crave, you won't find such fulfilment with this film. Ultimately what you find is suggestiveness, mystery, words unspoken and rope ends not tied up. There's a sense in which you have to make your own conclusions instead of having them presented to you on a plate.
I agree with film critic David Rooney:"This is an exquisitely crafted film, its unhurried rhythms continually shifting as plangent notes of melancholy, solitude, torment, jealousy and resentment surface. Campion is in full control of her material, digging deep into the turbulent inner life of each of her characters with unerring subtlety."
Visually, it is quite stunning. Though filmed in the Otago region of New Zealand, the imagery provides an authentic "feel" of the Montana wilderness in the early twentieth century with crumpled hills in the distance.
There was something quite surreal about it all. I found I had to suppress some nagging practical questions - such as: Where is the creek and the green woodland in relation to the grand Burbank ranchhouse? Why is the ranchhouse so big and why does it appear so uncluttered outside? Where is the nearby town in relation to the ranch? But in the end such queries didn't seem to matter. Best to just go with the flow and accept the separate reality of this brilliant artifice disguised as just another cowboy western.