KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON
Mumbai-based actor, conversationalist, NE cultural activist, creative strategist, producer & entrepreneur, Nandini Sharma reviews the fim "Killers of the Flower Moon" by Martin Scorsese
A leaf from the bloody history of American colonization, comes a tale of an entitled, powerful bunch of people systematically murdering indigenous Americans to quench their insatiable greed for money and wealth. Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” is an adaption of the non-fiction book “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” by American journalist David Grann.
The book investigates a series of Osage Indian murders that took place in the early 1920s in Osage County, Oklahoma. Osage Indians were awarded headrights (per capita share) to the profits from the oil deposits that were discovered beneath their land. And soon after, many wealthy Osage inheritors were murdered one after another. Though the official victim count stands at 20, the author believes the actual murders to run into hundreds.
Scorsese’s cinematic brilliance takes you through this gut-wrenching tale of murders in a surreally beautiful manner and through a rollercoaster of emotions. You feel sad, angry, dismayed and frustrated at the simplicity of the Osage people, despite their traditional wisdom. You wonder, how can they not see through the pattern? As their headman said in his speech - their might could defeat all enemies in an open war, but they were unable to recognise those faceless killers attacking them, hiding behind their backs. Osage County saw a trail of Osage murders, one after another till one brave Osage woman managed to live through it against all odds, and reached out to the president of the United States, after which the FBI was directed to investigate it. What you also see beyond the murders, are those greedy migrants, vultures, who were out to get their pound of flesh from the wealthy Osage, by hook or crook. The art team creates the quaint world of the 1920s Osage County, with its charming poisonous beauty, that stays with you for days.
The film is a powerhouse of performances. All the characters look real, as do their journeys. Special mention must be made of Lily Gladstone, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, whose nuanced performances make this vivid tale convincing. The lines between their familiar starry personas and their characters fade as the story progresses. Their performances consume you with hatred, pity and anger, all at the same time. Lily Gladstone deservedly bagged the Golden Globe Award for her performance as Mollie Burkhart. Leonardo DiCaprio announced in an Instagram post that Lily Gladstone is the first Indigenous American to receive a Golden Globe. Should that make us happy, sad or wonder? It took 90 years of Golden Globe’s history for the first Indigenous American to win one.
The film ends with the conviction of the mastermind. While I walked out of the private screening organised by Apple in Mumbai, which I was privileged to have been a part of, I argued with my film critic friend - Did he love her, did he not? I was looking for shreds of evidence to prove how love could transcend all other emotions. But I couldn’t put my argument convincingly enough. Walking home through those alleys of Juhu, somewhere deep down, I was feeling sad, with a larger sense of guilt, that educated, sophisticated, sensitive people allowed several murders of innocent Osage Indians to happen for so long, and pushed indigenous people out of their lands, to the edge of existence. What I carried home was the hauntingly enchanting ending sequence, a poetic delight in Scorsese’s inimitable cinematic style.
Though many are debating that this is not one of Martin Scorsese’s best, for me, the film is beyond cinematic brilliance. Filmmakers have a moral responsibility to tell the world the darkest tales of human history, especially in these times of a continuously metamorphosing modern society, which was once a diverse world. “Killers of the Flower Moon” is one such sensitively told dark truth of human greed and injustice, that we and our children must know.
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