Dear Jane Campion,

Benedict Cumberbatch has an excellent shot at an Oscar nomination/win.

I wanted to thank you for adapting Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel and directing The Power of the Dog (2021). Your films feel like good books that beg to be analyzed. Take The Piano (1993), for instance, your signature film for the past thirty years.

I taught it in English Composition class as a visual text twenty years ago. We discussed how the piano was a character in the film. Was it not the voice of the mute protagonist Ada? Was it not a metaphor for the treatment of women in a patriarchal world in 19th century New Zealand? That is, the piano was a burden to men. It was carried, abandoned, tattooed, mutilated, and drowned at the bottom of the sea.

We compared and contrasted the spiritual connection of Ada and George Baines while the clueless colonizer Alisdair Stewart (one of Sam Neill’s best roles) attempted to control his environment, the Maori people, and his wife with disastrous results. The best character was the eight-year-old daughter, Ada. Flora was a precocious, mischievous “angel” who becomes a little demon, manipulating Christianity to punish her mother for choosing to distance their bond for another man.

You embraced the wild scenery with a passion. It was necessary for the piano to have a complex voice. Michael Nyman‘s score is still breathtaking.

Today, I’m awestruck with my favorite film of 2021. I feel compelled to write you and extend my gratitude for your adapted screenplay and direction of The Power of the Dog (2021). The emotional wrestling between the characters makes it worth many discussions. Set in Montana in the 1920s, you embraced the topography and shared to the audience the beauty and harsh realities of the cowboy culture and the ambitions of a ranching family.

Kirsten Dunst plays Rose, a fragile mother who is intimidated and close to ruin by the bossy, jealous Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch). Photos courtesy of Netflix.
Kodi Smit-McPhee, smoldering, complex, and exciting to watch.

Jane, your characters are never one-dimensional. Their motivations are hidden. Their feelings are hidden. Their narrative arcs are complete. Through the camera’s lens via close-ups, staging, and the stark lines of the setting, you flush out their feelings. To some, the characters may seem too hidden, but I’ve always been a fan of inference and subtlety. That disturbing score heightens psychological warfare. You have created a beautiful film and given me hope that the art of filmmaking has returned.


Your Favorite Fan

P.S. What did Phil Burbank see in the hills? What was he staring at? Ah, the lines of the hills are hips, torsos, legs of a lover’s embrace. Perfect.

32 thoughts on “Dear Jane Campion,

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  1. I fell in love with Jane Campion’s films after ‘Sweetie’, then ‘An Angel at my table’. Followed by The Piano, so beautifully and lovingly filmed and photographed. I didn’t know about this new one, but now I want to watch it.
    Did you ever see her wonderful TV series, ‘Top Of The Lake’? An outstanding lead performance from Elizabeth Moss, an actress who was simpoly flawless in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Two rave reviews in one excellent post, Cindy. I never saw โ€˜The Pianoโ€™ largely because Kietel is much too good an actor when he plays a mean villain.
    I would have thought that Jane Campion would have been Oscar nominated for more of her works.
    And I am not familiar with John Savageโ€™ s writings.
    I do think Cumberbatch is an excellent actor and will receive many nominations and awards before he is through.
    Since there has been breakthroughs as regards women directors, films shot in New Zealand, homosexual themes, and movies made by and for TV streaming channels, maybe The Power of The Dog will get rewarded, with at least nominations…no more. Hollywood has a history of choosing pap over art.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Welcome, Don. Yes, this is a Netflix film. So beautifully done it puts the kabash on any need for Hollywood studios. All they do these days is Superheros, it seems. Anyway, this is art and it’s a beautiful film. It was not graphic and the homosexual theme was evident, and thankfully, the film lacked an agenda. It was just beautiful.
      With regards to Kietel, I would not say he was miscast, but, I’m guessing many would say he was and I can think of ten other actors who could do the job justice. It was fun to watch him in the role, just the same.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I will have to look up both films, Cindy. And I certainly agree that all Hollywood wants to do now superheroes. The only thing I like about them is my grandnephew Wayne Dalglish is making a name for himself as a stunt coordinator in some of them.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Happy New Year to you and yours Cindy! This movie is one I am still to catch up with, but you’ve really moved me a lot closer to sitting down with it. There’s much to be said about Benedict Cumberbatch and how so often he’s a nice guy. It’ll be an interesting adventure seeing him go the other way.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Well since I no longer seem able to get responses by the author of this site anymore, I suppose I should just take what I can get. Thanks for the feedback John.


    1. I remember reading it. Thanks for commenting. Do you have a favorite scene or image? Mine would be toward the end with the drive away on the long rode to town. You just knew you were seeing the last of Phil Burbank.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. To Cindy Bruchman: I have many, but one of them would be when Phil Burbank greets the dinner guests in his work clothes (for lack of better word) after being told not to dress like that. He gives off this vibe to Kirsten Dunst’s character that this is his territory and not theres – or at least that is how I see it ๐Ÿ™‚


      2. Oh yeah, I remember that scene though his demise took me by surprise as I hadn’t read the book. My review of Power Of The Dog comes out tomorrow, it’s truly a masterpiece.


  4. I’m still in awe of the cinematography. I had the joy of seeing this on the big screen and it was worth every second. Everything from the vast landscapes to the fine details of the ranch house just popped off the screen.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I haven’t seen this one yet, but I’ve been a fan of Campion since I discovered An Angel at My Table on cable TV. Campion isn’t capable of making an uninteresting movie. Even when she stumbles (e.g. the 2003 thriller In the Cut), Campion gives you plenty to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

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