Killers Of The Flower Moon Is Flawless In Its Plea Against Culture Usurpation
By Subhash K Jha
Killers Of The Flower Moon
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro , Lily Gladstone
Directed by Martin Scorsese
All his life Martin Scorsese has championed gangsterism in classics of the crime genre. We don’t need to name them. A Scorsese film is never forgotten. His characters are more often than not, vile and violent. They don’t care whether we like them or not. Neither does Scorsese.
This time for the first time in the poetically titled Killers Of The Flower Moon, Scorsese cares deeply for the victims of unrepentant violation and plunder. In fact the most poignant moment in this lengthy(but never cumbersome) story of greed and murder is when Scorsese himself appears on screen as part of a live prerformance to tell us whether the immoral land grabbers of the film got their comeuppance.
They didn’t. Not what they deserved. Where, except in the movies,do the villains get what they deserve? This celluloid moral truism misses Killers Of The Moon by a wide margin. Not that the guilty are not punished. But their punishment is not equal to the crime. It cannot be, when the crime is against humanity, when the guilty are so soaked in blood they can no longer recognize themselves in the mirror.
This is the land of supreme evil, where the capacity for rapacity is infinite. The setting is the Osage county in the 1920s where Leonardo di Caprio’s portrayal of the dimwitted malleable gold digger who marries a native American Indian for her oil-spilling land, is so authentic I felt this is diCaprio and Scorsese’s best collaboration to date. Till the end I waited for the character’s redemptive curve. Where does avaricious ambition stop?
DiCaprio ‘s Ernest tells us that greed has no full stops. His uncle William Hale, known in Osage County is King,and played by the renewably redoubtable Robert di Niro, is a more identifiable breed of evil. His DNA is wired for evil. It is a way of life for him. We know this man even if we don’t want to.
The epicenter of purity and absolution in this tale of irredeemable evil is Mollie Kyle(Lily Gladstone). She is smart but sadly vulnerable. Watching her buckle under Ernest’s monstrous murderous machinations I wondered again why beautiful intelligent women often fall for the biggest scumbags.
As the native tribal women of Osage county fall in love with White Trash , and then FALL with a thud in love, Scorsese leaves us with a profound sense of grief and loss. The film made me think , why do human beings behave so badly with one another? As Lily Gladstone’s Mollie falls prey to the most unimaginable greed,the film weaves a gossamer web around the endangered community of Indians who are targeted for their land .
This is where the real relevance of Killers Of The Flower Moon broadens into a far wider spectrum than that of the native Indians in Osage county. Scorsese’s film is a plea for the preservation of cultural heritage in every part of the world where usurpers are on the prowl. Its defining parameters go far beyond the immediate scope of the epic. The flawless narration throws forward an exceptional array of possibilities and probabilities pertaining to the shapes that life can take when the Gods allow the greedy a freehand.
This is a film that should not be talked about.It just has to be experienced , and seen not once but at least twice—once to just absorb its unique and stunning blend of the bleak and the beautiful, and then again for the unspoken clues that are skillfully strewn for the characters in their journey to damnation.
Killers Of The Flower Moon is a film that will be talked about in hushed tones for many generations to come. As for the performances, let’s not insult the brilliant actors in smaller roles by singling out the three extraordinary principal actors. But yes, Lily Gladstone is heartbreaking.