Quietly but powerfully examining heteronormative gender norms and the rigidity of rural culture, Jane Campion’s ‘The Power of the Dog’ features tormented characters grappling with their personal hells against the backdrop of a massive ranch. Mostly, we see Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch), a bellicose cowboy, wielding his toxic masculinity and shunning the decisions of his mild-mannered brother, George (Jesse Plemons).
As a result, George’s wife, Rose (Kirsten Dunst), and his teenage stepson, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), face the brunt of Phil’s wrath and try to navigate their aggressively masculine and hostile environment. Of course, we’re sure some of you must be curious about the year in which the events of this Western drama film take place and where the Burbank ranch is located. Knowing the timeline and the geographical context certainly helps in immersing oneself deeply into the story. So don’t worry, we’ve got the answers you need. SPOILERS AHEAD.
In Which Year Does The Power of the Dog Occur?
The events of ‘The Power of the Dog’ take place in the year 1925. Thus, we see the delicate junction between traditional rural life and a modern, technologically advanced society as horse-drawn wagons jostle alongside shiny new cars. Additionally, the outfits of the characters, particularly Rose with her simple flapper-style dresses, bring attention to 1920s America. The timeline of the movie adds authenticity to the story of ranchers, especially because it is based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 eponymous novel and borrows partly from his own life in the early 20th Century.
George wears bowler hats and bowties, which are associated with sophisticated businessmen of his time. His choice of accessories makes sense — and stands out sharply against his brother’s dirty cowboy attire — because he deeply cares about his social status and image. Additionally, the dinner party hosted by George for the governor and his wife, as well as parents, highlight the popular socializing culture of the 1920s. It is also interesting to note that all the women in the film have short hair, as stated by the norms of the time period they are in.
Phil’s penchant for matchsticks over lighters (which became popular in the early 1930s) and the Burbank manor possessing a large number of electrical lights too emphasize the duality of the time period the film’s characters belong to. However, it is important to note that only some elements associated with the Roaring Twenties reached the rural areas whilst others did not. The Burbanks are quite wealthy, so it makes sense that they have access to resources and luxe items that other rural families cannot afford.
Moreover, if you are looking for the timeline of Phil and Bronco Henry’s ambiguously romantic relationship, then Bronco’s lifespan may be of help. Bronco was born in 1854 and passed away in 1904. Additionally, we know that the legendary cowboy is older than Phil and George and that the two brothers went for their first cattle run in 1900. Thus, it’s likely that Phil and Bronco interacted in the late 1890s and early 1900s when the former was a young man beginning to learn the ways of ranching.
Which Place Is It in The Power of the Dog?
In ‘The Power of the Dog,’ the Burbank ranch, the site of all the action, is located in Montana and the characters of the film dwell there as well. Additionally, before moving to the Burbank ranch with George, Rose and Peter reside in an inn located in Beech, a nearby town, that is frequented by cowboys and the locals. The area inhabited by the characters is mostly large swaths of land dotted with the occasional manors, barns, stables, and/or cowsheds.
Against the backdrop of Montana’s Northern Great Plains, Phil and his cowboys tend to the cattle and horses, cure rawhide, and hunt elk. We are also informed that Native Americans often pass by the area, although the Burbanks, Phil in particular, look down upon and refuse to do trade with them. Savage was a citizen of Montana as well, so it makes sense that this story about cowboys is set in the state known as the Big Sky Country.
Read More: The Power of the Dog Filming Locations