'The power of the dog' | Anatomy of a scene

Hello. I am Jane Campion. I’m the writer and director of “The Power of the Dog”. This is the scene I call the love scene. It’s a scen...


Hello. I am Jane Campion. I’m the writer and director of “The Power of the Dog”. This is the scene I call the love scene. It’s a scene that takes place in the barn at night with Phil, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and Peter, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee. It’s really a scene that I really like, because it’s the culmination of their relationship. And so many different parts of the movie that were really seeded from the start, like the completion of the rope with all of its loaded meanings, the shift in Peter and Phil’s relationship to intimacy, and then the surprising power shift from Phil to Peter as Peter boldly offers the cigarette to Phil’s lips, then to his own, and the presentation of the murder scene. The goal for me directing the scene was to find a way to really build tension while Peter watches Phil finish the rope. And that’s something Phil asked him to do. Will you watch me finish the rope? It’s a kind of vulnerability that, in fact, Phil shows towards him. Here we see the moment when the murder scene was brought up, when Phil’s wound turns pink in the water. And it’s also a scene where I added lots and lots of detail during filming and later. But this shot here is the one that really turned me on, like, just doing this focus move between Peter, the rope, Phil’s hands played there at his crotch. And moving closer to Peter as he looked at him. And then he walks over to Bronco Henry’s saddle and starts playing with it, which is actually a subversive way for Peter to flirt with Phil, because anyone who touches Bronco’s saddle, especially Peter, is probably eroticizing Phil. And you know, it’s interesting that these saddles, they have so many—all the spurs actually, kind of little romantic aspects inside the little silver heart and the actual spurs themselves. You know? “How old were you when you met Bronco Henry? “About the age you are now.” Phil and Peter feel really good here. Phil isn’t really sure, I don’t think, if Peter is aware of the atmosphere, because Peter is really hard to read. And he begins a story about Bronco Henry and himself when they were caught in a storm to illustrate how their friendship was not only the most important friendship of his life, but the one that saved his life. And he talks about lying down clinch in a body rolled together. And you know, meanwhile, touching the rope and all the other erotic objects in this scene. And Peter asks, “Naked? This is the really important moment for me and especially the way these great actors work with the lines and with what happens. Here we just see the string that Peter made inserted into the main string. And so it becomes a rope that they both made together. And initially, the scene contained no dialogue. In fact, it wasn’t even in the book. But Benoît really resisted the idea of ​​dialogue. And in fact, at the beginning, I had thought that there shouldn’t be any dialogue either. I thought it should just have the beautiful music from Jonny Greenwood and it would kind of be a really loud moment. However, Benoît and I came to a sort of compromise, where we just used the most innocent of dialogue. You know, nothing really suggestive, just something simple, like innocent questions. And the scene stages a lot of complicated things. But the most important thing, I think, is that it’s erotic and tense. And that moment, when they’re actually sharing the cigarette, Peter gives her that little smile, where we know he knows he’s got Phil. And here we go to the horses, with the horns still playing. And they are raw animals. I think they’re very sexy in a way, because of how natural they are and seeing them in those details, their strength, their beauty, and the intimacy they have with each other is, I think, incredibly important too.

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