Beyond the Screen #33 – Killers of the Flower Moon Trailer Debuts

May 21, 2023

After years (repeat: years) of having single still to its name (you know the one, DiCaprio and Gladstone sitting at that damned table), Apple has at last dropped the much-anticipated trailer for Martin Scorsese’s period crime-epic Killers of the Flower Moon, and it promises what may be the director’s best work this side of the century. Read no further if you want to remain totally in the dark about a film based on a famous historical account of true events.

Scorsese’s film is based on the 2017 novel Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. The book ‘investigates a series of murders of wealthy Osage people that took place in Osage County, Oklahoma in the early 1920s after big oil deposits were discovered beneath their land. After the Osage are awarded rights in court to the profits made from oil deposits found on their land, the Osage people prepare to receive the wealth to which they are legally entitled from the sale of their oil deposits. The Osage are viewed as the “middleman” and a complex plot is hatched to eliminate the Osage inheritors on a one-by-one basis by any means possible. Officially, the count of the wealthy Osage victims reaches at least twenty, but author David Grann suspects that hundreds more may have been killed because of their ties to oil. The book details the newly formed FBI’s investigation of the murders, as well as the eventual trial and conviction of cattleman William Hale as the mastermind behind the plot.’

The film audiences will see in theatres has switched perspective significantly. As Scorsese put it: “We went to Oklahoma to the Gray Horse settlement, the Osage gave us a big dinner, and people got up and spoke. One woman got up and said, “You know, they loved each other, Ernest and Mollie. And don’t forget that. They loved each other.” I thought, ‘Whoa. That’s the story. How could he have done what he did?’”

Ernest, nephew to Robert DeNiro’s wealthy cattle baron, is played by Leonardo DiCaprio, his wife Mollie is played by Lily Gladstone. Also among the cast are Brendan Fraser, Jesse Plemons, Tantoo Cardinal and John Lithgow.

This first trailer is narrated by DiCaprio’s Ernest, reading from a children’s book about the Osage (or as the book clarifies; ‘the Ni Okašką, Children of the Middle Waters’). The recitation builds to a particularly sinister line. Glimpses of dreadfulness pass over his reading.

In an interview with Deadline, Scorsese, DeNiro and DiCaprio are asked about the project and its evolution. Their responses betray a sense of import, as if they know they’ve got to work on something truly special, perhaps even vital. Says DiCaprio (who also shared the trailer with the note that he is proud of it); “We did a lot of work to try to help Marty do what he does best, which is to tell a very human story. To get to the dark side of the human condition but also understand the complexities. Here you had the wealthiest nation, the richest per capita people in the world. You had this melting pot in Oklahoma where freed slaves had created their own economy, and the Osage emerged as this wealthy culture. But you also had during that period the rise of the KKK and white supremacy and this clash of cultures.”

DiCaprio goes on to say “For some of these white settlers, it was like a gold rush to take advantage of people of color… The script is based on an amazing book, but when I spoke with David Grann after we had this idea, he was all for it. He said that getting into a forensic look at the culture at that time, the clash between white America and the Indigenous people, would be the perfect way to tell the story, if it could be done. I really think we accomplished that. At the end of the day, it works.”

Scorsese had this to say: “What I responded to when I read David Grann’s book was the natural order of things. The idea that one could rationalize that if the Osage are not going to be of any use, if they’re going to be phased out anyway, why don’t we just, you know, help them go? And, ultimately, do we really feel any guilt for that? I don’t mean you and I, but when you’re doing what was being done to the Osage, and if you tend to dehumanize someone… Do they behave differently, culturally? Yes, on all levels. There’s no way they could fit in to the European model, the capitalist model, in terms of money and private property.”

The Killers of the Flower Moon director elaborates, “So, then we’re coming, and we’re not going away. Either you join us, or you have to go. Now, we love and admire you, by the way, but it’s just that your time is up. I heard someone recently say, when they fire an executive, well, their time is over. And the person behind that fired person, it’s their time. Is this the natural order of who we are as human beings?.. Well, the answer is: probably yes, if you’re driven by how much money you can make. All that land’s just sitting there, what are they doing with it? The Europeans are thinking; ‘We come here, and look at this place. Look at the riches! And what are they doing? Killing some buffalo. Fighting amongst themselves over hunting areas. Communal living. And, excuse me, nobody owns the land?’ The very fact they don’t understand, in European terms, the value of money means they can’t exist in this world.”

Rumours have already sprung concerning the sets being constructed to survive post the shoot for use by the Osage, while a stray comment of Scorsese’s concerning his age has spun Twitter into existential dread. Long live film.

Killers of the Flower Moon will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in the coming days. With yesterday’s poor reception of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, fingers should be more crossed than ever thought imaginable.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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