To Be A Man In A World Of Machos
I refused to watch this movie for the longest time. Even though I was sure that wonderful director Jane Campion would do a fine job. Even though the movie tavelled from festival to festival receiving award after award. Even though the critics were raving.
I was concerned about a certain brutality. A distinct perpective of Campion that shocked us first in "The Piano" - but lead to a happy end - might be unbearable here, the feeling of terror was so overwhelming from watching the trailer alone.
I finall watched it last week and I have to say - first of all it is not the movie that is soooo frightening, it is the perspective of one woman who gets terrorised by her brother in law just because he happens to play the banjo much better than she hammers her piano.
Do not get me wrong: Benedict Cumberbach doesn´t play a nice guy, his "Phil" refuses to wash himself, he is used to be obeyed and freaks out easily, and on top he is an educated man in a very uneducated wildernes, mocking everybody.
Everybody? No, wait: From the first scene on you watch how he tries to get the attention of his younger brother who seems more interested in a mature, married life, while his older brother can only talk about a dead friend and personal hero.
But the young man that enters the scene, the son of that widow "Fatso" marries, is the interesting part here. A boy as slender as the flowers he loves to cut out from papers. Who walks in white shoes, with Jeans as crisp as any pair bought in a cool Brooklyn store, and with the urban attitude of the medicine student he is - this Peter the real surprise.
Because "Little Lord Fauntleroy", as Phil sacastically calls him, will win at the end. As he explained in the very beginning only to "save his mother from any harm".
This Peter (played brilliantly by Kodi Smit-McPhee) who turns out to be the strongest and smartest man in a world of machos, makes the movie worth watching. And all of a sudden it is not a period drama from the genre past of Western but a parable about power.
Also: The production designer Grant Major did an epic job!!
Jane Campion might be the only person in the movie buisness who learnt a thing or two from Shakespeare and his specific way of storytelling. His stages being her landscapes of her native New Zealand. His words being her lights and sounds. His heroes being her characters.
What a fresh and different movie - compared to all those you call "modern" these days!