I went out yesterday evening to the local cinema to see Killers of the Flower Moon. The reviews I read were mixed, from overblown epic to brilliant, so I wanted to see for myself.
The story revolves around a series of killings of members of the Osage tribe back in the 1920’s after oil was discovered on their land. The main focus of the film is on the relationship between Molly (Lily Gladstone) and Ernest Burkhart (Di Caprio) and Molly’s family, several of whom were murdered. Molly was a full blood Osage and Ernest was a white man and nephew to William Hale (De Niro).
It was a long show and probably could have been shortened but not by much. Scorsese has captured the era very well, you are fully immersed in the story and get a rounded picture of just how rotten and corrupt the people were who were parasitically feeding off the Osage.
Overall, the film made a strange impression on me. The characters of Ernest and Hale, and others involved in the killings were, for me, the scum of the earth. While watching the film, and afterwards, I felt I needed a shower. They killed without conscience or any hint of remorse for the lives they took, all so that they could get their hands on the wealth, land and oil rights of the Osage. The attitude to the killings by those in authority would also make your blood boil and is summed up in this sentence from the film ‘you would have more chance of getting a conviction for kicking a dog than killing an Indian’. The idea that the ‘savage Indian’ was not worthy of the wealth and their lives unimportant, Manifest Destiny all over again. I think part of it too was that, being white, I felt shame at what my race has done to the Natives of Turtle Island and frustrated that this attitude still prevails among those who would rule over us (non-elites) today.
I also felt frustrated at the naivety of the Osage and the character of Molly in dealing with what was going on around them. After everything that had happened to the native tribes across America that they still trusted the ‘white man’.
The film changes tack towards the end with a radio presentation on the killings and jars garishly with the subject matter of the film. I think this was deliberate by Scorsese and a comment on present day society where tragedy is now a source of entertainment for the mass audience to be exploited by others with their own agendas. And it is hard not to draw parallels between William Hale and today’s billionaires, the dried up old coffin dodgers who run the world and corrupt it with their greed and lust for money. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. A plague on all their houses!
I would highly recommend seeing the film and look forward to reading the book by David Grann.