Jane Campion returns to the sort of mythical frontier landscape—pulsing with both freedom and menace—that she previously traversed in The Piano to probe the male psyche in The Power of the Dog, set against the desolate plains of Montana 1920s and adapted by the filmmaker from Thomas Savage’s novel. When a sensitive widow (Kirsten Dunst) and her enigmatic, deeply loving son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) move in with her gentle new husband (Jesse Plemons), a tense battle of wills ensues between them and his brutal brother (Benedict Cumberbatch). , whose terrifying fleetingness hides a secret torment and whose tenderness, once awakened, can bring him salvation or mean his destruction. Oscar-winning director Campion chronicles the suppressed desires and psychological violence between these characters with the mesmerizing control of a master at the peak of her powers.
For deeper thoughts the power of the dog Please see my colleague Dom Fisher’s review of his original post here.
The power of the dog comes on 4K UHD Blu-Ray in an AVC encoded transmission from a 4K master in 2.28:1 with Dolby Vision HDR courtesy of The Criterion Collection offering a wondrous presentation that presents this film flawlessly. This incredible presentation offers a visual experience few films can match in modern cinema. Cinematographer Ari Wegner captures some unforgettable shots from afar that really impress on this format. But it’s not just the traditionally beautiful nature shots that impress, you get a dynamic experience inside the house with some rich textures in the production design. Skin tones look natural throughout the run, with fine details like sweat and stubble standing out. So much character is added to each craft that your jaw will be on the floor.
Colors are brilliantly saturated thanks to Dolby Vision imaging, which captures the subtlest nuances within hues. The film has a very specific, shifting color palette that Wegner uses thematically, and this translation conveys that vision with great authenticity. Nothing is candy colored or artificially enhanced, just recorded with precision and motivation. Right off the bat you’ll find that the deep, jet black shows no signs of the compression artifacts or crush that plague the streaming version. Highlights are also more stable, with blooming never being a problem. There is no evidence of digital harassment during the entire runtime. The included Blu-Ray is pretty stunning in its own right, but the 4K UHD Blu-Ray allows the film to achieve the best version of what it should be at home. Criterion has delivered what fans have been asking for for a long time.
The 4K UHD Blu-Ray disc includes a stunning Dolby Atmos track that delivers exactly what you want and need. Compared to most movies with such complex sound design, The power of the dog is narratively restrained, but the Oscar-nominated sound work gives you a hint of just how layered and immersive it is when you dive into it. One of the most rewarding aspects of this audio track is Jonny Greenwood’s score, which pervades space with surrounding speakers that maintain precise fidelity. Each element is clearly defined and never in the slightest bit muddled or distorted.
Ambient noise and other such elements make this world appear three-dimensional. The overhead speakers complement the standard surround speakers quite well without taking on the brunt. The farmyard outside sounds combined with the ambiance of certain interior spaces make for a truly textured soundscape. The track is more than just constant sound as the creative team plays with intentional silence in really inventive ways. Dialogue comes through crystal clear, with no words ever being stifled by a competing element. Low-end response isn’t the star here, but it does add some personality to the mix. This is an excellent audio presentation that doesn’t falter in the slightest. English SDH subtitles are optionally provided.
The Criterion 4K UHD Blu-Ray by The power of the dog Includes a fold-out booklet featuring critic Amy Taubin’s essay “What Kind Of Man,” in which she provides a wealth of insight and analysis of the film, helping to highlight the deeper themes of the exhibition and the connections to the creators’ other works, the source material and more. The specifics of the disc are as follows:
- Behind the scenes with Jane Campion: A nearly 18 minute featurette giving you a unique insight into the production, including Campion discussing the narration, checking out the costumes, working with the cast to bring their vision to life, explaining the meaning of certain moments and more more you can to understand how passionate she is about this material.
- Reorientation of the West: A 28-minute piece in which director Jane Campion; producer Tanya Seghatchian; actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee; cinematographer Ari Wegner; film editor Peter Sciberras; costume designer Kirsty Cameron; makeup artist Noriko Watanabe; and lead sound engineer Robert Mackenzie offer their analysis of the characters, the astute direction of Campion, the power of the source material, the importance of truly inhabiting this environment, the world’s color palette, the patient camera movement, the hair and makeup, the Production design, the sound design, the score and more.
- The women behind The power of the dog: A 24-minute roundtable discussion featuring Campion, cinematographer Ari Wegner, actress Kirsten Dunst and producer Tanya Seghatchian, moderated by filmmaker Tamara Jenkins. In these discussions, you’ll understand what appealed to the creatives about the source material, Rose’s importance to the narrative, how Dunst made the role her own, the preparation that went into capturing these images, how Campion’s directing of some agree from her distinguished male colleagues and more.
- Anatomy of a score: A nearly 14-minute featurette in which Campion talks to composer Jonny Greenwood about the film’s score, the place of each instrument in the soundscape, how the score plays with the narrative, and much more that is very insightful.
- Annie Proulx: A 13-minute featurette in which novelist Annie Proulx (Brokeback Mountain) discusses her story with Thomas Savage, her appreciation of what Campion did with the material, the changes made for the film adaptation, different facets of each character, the deeper themes of the story, the history of western fiction, and more.
- Follower: The two-minute trailer is here.
The power of the dog is one of the best films to be released in the current decade. Jane Campion demonstrates a mastery of the art form that few filmmakers can even come close to matching. The source material is brought to life with great care and creativity that reveals an amazing amount of depth and subtext. From a purely visual point of view the film is beyond reproach as Ari Wegman effortlessly translates the vision in Campion’s head onto the screen for all to understand. The performances by the main quartet of actors are superb and represent some of our favorite performances in recent memory. With each viewing of this film, it becomes more impactful and further cemented as a modern classic. The Criterion Collection has released a new 5-star 4K UHD Blu-Ray with flawless A/V presentation and some worthwhile special features. This is a film worthy of all the praise that is being heaped upon it and then some. Highly recommended
The edition of the Criterion Collection of The power of the dog will be Available on Blu-Ray and DVD on November 8, 2022.
Note: The images presented in this test do not reflect the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: The Criterion Collection has provided a free copy of this CD for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the author’s honest reactions.