The Power of the Dog Editor on Film’s Ending

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for The Power of the Dog.]

Towards the end of Jane Campion’s 1920s Montana-set TV series The power of the dogThe ending twist is set in motion when, in a barn one night, cruel rancher Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) completes a rope he’s been making for Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) with stuff. which he didn’t know was the sick cowhide that Peter had brought him.

It is murder by anthrax, although this is not entirely clear. “The final act has led to this moment where these men are finally together, and there are so many ways to build their relationship to get to that moment in a way that hopefully is infinite. tense, both dangerous and sexual,” said Peter Sciberras, scene editor of the Netflix film, which was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, including best photography, directing and editing.

“The important thing is that it feels really sexy. It’s an idea to ‘extend the moment before the first kiss,’ he says. Close-ups such as braids “are really important because it is both a very tender, loving thing, and really the thing that caused the end of his life. … Peter took control of the scene, and he was the one who walked over to Phil and took action [him a] cigarette. That’s really important to communicate through the scene. “

Here are shots of the horses, brightly lit: images that Sciberras felt were “important so that the audience doesn’t see too much of how the scene actually ends. These horses know the creatures nearby and are more informative than the audience, but it also gives the audience space to wonder. [how the night ended] and transferred us the next morning. That’s not in the script; that’s what Jane and I felt we needed. “

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Cinematographer Ari Wegner (left) with director Jane Campion (right).

Sciberras cut two versions of the next morning, including one in which Phil gets sick downstairs for a clumsy breakfast. But Campion and Sciberras went with another choice, in that Phil didn’t come downstairs, and his brother, George (Jesse Plemons), went into his room. “It’s much more enjoyable not to see [Phil and Peter] and wonder where they are and what’s going on. “

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They also experimented with revealing Phil’s death. They chose to have George and Phil go to the doctor, leaving the farm in the car as Peter watched from the window. “We used a wide shot that we actually had [planned] much earlier in the movie, when George was driving to Rose’s [Kirsten Dunst] but we feel like a big, beautiful, spacious house [shot] there [helped] to really unfold the movie and give the audience a moment to see Phil [leave] before we fade to black. It felt like the right way to say goodbye. “

In the final scene, Peter once again watches through his bedroom window as Rose and George return from Phil’s memorial service. Sciberras revealed that at one point, the camera slowly panned across Peter’s desk through his medical books and paused on a page revealing the definition of anthrax.

“It was the final shot, the same way the novel ended,” the editor said, acknowledging that cutting that shot was a “major” change. “It was so clear that it was the only thing you would think about when we went black. [But] Jane is such a layered filmmaker that she really wants to leave the audience with much bigger questions. … It’s a really brave call. “

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter March 9 issue. Click here to subscribe.

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