Depicting a very different American west to the classic films of John Ford, Clint Eastwood or Howard Hawks, the dusty great plains of Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog shows a barren national wasteland seemingly devoid of life. Deconstructing the traditional image of the western cowboy, the 2022 Oscar contender is an altogether different type of genre film, defying stereotypes to question the role of masculinity in the myth of the wild west.
Purposefully setting her own film apart from the male-dominated genre films of the past, Campion’s revisionist western takes place long after the height of the era, telling the story of an intimidating cattle rancher and his dictatorial control over those who work alongside him.
Explaining how her film differs from other genre classics, Campion explained in an interview, “Nobody’s got a gun. It’s just at the end of that mythology when the cowhands are working there because they love cowboys of old and they are getting their clothes from the mail orders and dressing as cowboys as a kind of quoting of cowboys”.
Across 17 weeks of pre-production, 50 days of filming and a total of 15 location sets, Campion filmed much of her American epic in her own country of New Zealand, giving further crucial subtext to the stunning locations of the film. Taking advantage of sparsely populated areas of vast grasslands and rocky mountains, let’s take a look at the key filming locations of Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog.
Where was The Power of the Dog filmed?
Hawkdun Ranges, Central Otago
Situated in the South Island of New Zealand, the majority of The Power of the Dog was filmed in the Otago region of New Zealand, with a farm in Hawkdun Ranges in Maniototo being used for the interior and exterior shots of the central Burbank Ranch. Dismantling the farm and remodelling it in a more western-style, Campion did all she could to recreate the sense of the American country in southern New Zealand.
Speaking about how she discovered the location, the filmmaker stated, “On the second day of sniffing around the South Island, I was taken to a property near the Hawkdun Ranges area in Central Otago. I fell in love with it. It’s so remote and it’s 360 degrees empty with an amazing hill range behind, which felt very atmospheric”.
Queenstown Hill, Queenstown
Playing host to one of the greatest moments in Jane Campion’s magical modern western, the gorgeous views of Queenstown Hill that overlooks the city of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and Cecil Peak provides the perfect romantic backdrop for two key characters. Newly married, George (Jesse Plemons) takes Rose (Kirsten Dunst) to the top of the hill where she teaches him a number of dance steps, much to his initial dismay.
A stunning location with panoramic views of varying national landscapes, Queenstown Hill became the perfect location for the small moment of romance in Jane Campion’s emotionally-wrought drama.
Dunedin Railway Station, Dunedin
Although The Power of the Dog mostly takes place on the dusty plains of the Burbank ranch and the surrounding areas, multiple moments throughout the film demand more built-up urban locations. One of these moments is when George picks up his parents at the train station to bring them to the ranch, with the ornate architectural wonder of the Dunedin Railway Station, which was opened in 1906, being used for this particular scene.
Whilst this is the most prominent use of a Dunedin landmark, several other interior shots were captured on the urban streets of Dunedin, with Campion gifting the viewer some much-needed respite in the city, away from the intensity of life on the ranch.