Killers of the Flower Moon: review of Martin Scorsese’s film – Cannes 76
Introduced out of competition at Cannes Film Festivalthe highly anticipated Killers of the Flower Moon is the new movie of Martin Scorsese which will hit Italian cinemas next fall, before landing on Apple TV+. The director also co-wrote the script with Eric Rothbased on the 2017 book of the same name by David Grann. The plot centers on a series of murders in Oklahoma against the Osage Nation during the 1920s, committed after oil was discovered in their tribe. The film stars Leonardo Dicapriohere also as executive producer, together with Robert DeNiro, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons, Brendan Fraser And John Lithgow. This is the seventh collaboration between Scorsese and DiCaprio and the eleventh between Scorsese and De Niro.
Killers of the flower moon, from book to film
Based on the best-selling book by David Grann of 2017 Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, the Apple Studios film tells the story of how a series of murders of Native Americans of the Osage nation – over oil reserves on Osage land – coincided with the birth of the FBI. In this case, it is Jesse Plemmons to interpret Tom Whitea Texas Ranger turned FBI agent sent to Oklahoma by J. Edgar Hoover to investigate the mounting murders of members of the then very wealthy Osage Nation. Initially, Di Caprio should have played the character of White, central point of view of the book but, together with Scorsese And DeNiroit was decided to rearrange the plot of the film around the suspect Ernest Burkhartin an effort to avoid a narrative centered on the “white savior”.
Killers of the Flower Moon is set in 1920s Fairfax, an area of northeastern Oklahoma which, as it points out Scorsese in the film’s excellent prologue (a kind of black-and-white mockumentary), it held the highest per capita income at the time, with the Indians of the Osage Nation as the main beneficiaries. Amidst the profusion of oil wells, they received generous royalties which is why we see them wearing ostentatious jewelry and cruising in luxury cars with white chauffeurs.
In the midst of this (black) gold rush, Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo Dicaprio), a World War I veteran (he was actually an Infantry cook) arrives on the scene along with thousands of other workers to join his uncle’s company William “The King” Hale (an epithet that explains its influence in the management of power in the county). Just at Hale’s suggestion, Ernest marries Mollie, a member of one of the many wealthy native families; in this sense, one of the questions Scorsese will dwell on in the course of the narration is whether there is true love at the basis of the relationship between Ernest and Mollie or if Ernest has opted for a marriage of interest that could gradually make him acquire an important income . What is certain is that a constant and growing genocidal carnage is unleashed: land and rents are too attractive for white men and the Osange are stripped of their possessions by all kinds of tricks, deceit or outright cold-blooded murder. .
Wolves in Oklahoma
“Can you see the wolves in this photo?“: In Osage County, wolves are hiding everywhere. Unlike owls, an omen of death for the Indians and which appear in the visions of some characters, in Killers of the Flower Moon wolves are never represented in their animal form. They need to be found, and perhaps someone within the county has already. They are the killers of a promised and lost land, who have manipulated an entire people and their resources. However, more than as perpetrators and proponents of a real genocide – according to the Ministry of Justice, that of Osage was “the bloodiest chapter in the history of American crime” – Scorsese he frames these wolves with his usual cut. They are criminals, crooks, gangsters and their shady movements are directed much of the director’s attention, much more than that dedicated to the real victims, the Osage.
The main narrative line of Killers of the Flower Moon it allows, through an incessant gaze on the male figures, a careful analysis of these new “good guys”. The clash between Ernest and William is, quite literally, to the death and there is no way to take the directorial focus away from this duel. A rather accentuated facial mimicry distinguishes these animal-like characters, which effectively resemble wolves with the grimaces they maintain for the entire duration of the film. fans of Martin Scorsese will rejoice in participating in this head-to-head of acting prowess between two of the director’s fetish actors and, especially as regards Di Capriowill surely be impressed by the unauthoritative and weak-spirited character that has been built around him, something certainly new compared to his other previous roles.
Secondary points of view
On the other hand, the way Scorsese decides to adapt the starting essay, does not allow the grand Lily Gladstone to shine in the second and third act of the film as much as in the first part. In this one, his Mollie in fact, he is often on the scene while he is learning about Ernest to then, as we said, be pulled out of the game together with the other Osage, partly because the game about their lives is played elsewhere, in the spaces where the white man has access, partly because what interests Scorsese is eradicate the falsehood that dominates the relationships between these criminals, passing from the western epic to almost the gangster movie.
Even the FBI, the fundamental point of view of the book, which conducts the investigation and exposes the wolves, is not very present in the film by Scorsese. Everything is functional to the staging of the relationship between uncle and nephew – or it would be better to say servant and master – and which should encapsulate the metaphorical sense of social abuse by whites in Oklahoma. Circumscribing the story to Scorsese’s favorite thematic microcosm works at times: with an editing that is not always punctual, especially as regards the sequences of the Osage murders, the reflection on theact of killing, the actual genocide that has been committed, seems to fall short of the ferocity with which relations between whites are portrayed. Nevertheless, in portraying this clash of Wolves, Scorsese makes Scorsese, a choice that will surely convince longtime fans of the director, while opening the door to that certainly unprecedented creative choice, especially with regard to an unexpected final insert.