Kirsten Dunst on her tormented character in ‘The Power of the Dog’

“Being on the ranch, I feel like she’s shipwrecked at sea,” says Kirsten Dunst, describing her character Rose in “The Power of the Dog.” Being on a 1920s Montana ranch surrounded by a vast, mountainous landscape, there’s not a sense of limitlessness and freedom. Instead, “it feels like you’re lost at sea a little bit out there.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Dunst above.

The Netflix western stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank, a rancher who is openly hostile to his brother George (Jesse Plemons), his new wife Rose (Dunst), and her son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Phil’s cruelty eventually drives Rose to drink. “I feel like for Rose, that house and being out there was like, where can I breathe?” Dunst explains. “Everything’s so claustrophobic and overwhelming to her.” There’s a moment early on when she shares a hopeful romantic moment with George in the mountains, but then “it all comes crashing down and she moves into the ‘Shining’ household,” and “she needs that liquid courage to just be able to function in the home.”

Jane Campion wrote and directed the film, adapted from a 1967 novel by Thomas Savage, and working with the filmmaker was an especially meaningful experience for Dunst. “Jane has been one of my inspirations,” she says. “‘The Piano’ was one of the most formative movie experiences that I had growing up. And her female performances have always inspired me as an actress.” And now with “Power of the Dog” and Dunst’s performance in it being greeted with strong reviews and awards buzz, “I feel very lucky to be in her movie and to be part of a movie that people are liking. That’s a special thing.”

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