Straw Dogs Through Generations – The Territorial Imperative

 

Straw Dogs’ legacy is one which will live on as long as cinema itself, as uncomfortable and difficult as that may be. 

“Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs; the sage is ruthless, and treats the people as straw dogs.

Lao Tzu’s Tao Teh Ching. Book One, Poem V (Penguin Ed. Trans. D.C. Lau)

The desolate remoteness of the Cornish countryside, in the Southern English locale known as ‘The West Country’, formed the backdrop for veteran US director Sam Peckinpah’s sixth feature; a rural western which would cause enough furore and controversy to ignite passionate debate over four decades after its initial release in 1971. Straw Dogs is a provocative and challenging film which poses many difficult questions pertaining to the nature of violence and sexuality. A source of conflict and debate amongst critics and academics alike, there is a wealth of philosophy and introspective analysis taking place amidst the societal and personal breakdowns which occur during the two hours of relentless tension.

The prominent factors which manifest themselves as the film’s primary issues are the nature of violence and of sex. Within this seemingly straightforward narrative lies a veritable Pandora’s Box of themes relating to evolution, instinct, sexual roles and revolt; a complexity which is incensed by the verbally elusive and antagonistic figure of Peckinpah himself. It is a story of a marriage, and a man, engaged in bitter conflict.

There is also the factor of reflective contrast as, forty years after the release of Straw Dogs, director Rod Lurie cast his own vision upon the movie. Despite viewing the original as being ‘misanthropic and misogynistic’, Lurie set himself a mission to askew the political and sociological viewpoints in Peckinpah’s feature so that they fit more into a contemporary (and personal) ideology. This would prove to be no mean feat, but before embarking on any kind of comparative analysis, thematic or otherwise, it is essential to examine the original in detail.

A fanfare accompanying bland titles serve as a paradoxical opening, simultaneously grandiose and humble. Children frolic in a graveyard, idly taunting a dog as they do so; one sits solitary on top of a gravestone; an outsider observing. This snapshot of childish vindictiveness is fleeting however, as a sharp cut brings Amy Sumner, Susan George’s character into frame. Young and carefree, she walks burdened with groceries through the sleepy rural streets. A mid-level close shot displays her from the waist up; her sweater clinging to her body in a manner which was clearly not the norm in such a reserved setting. Men throw furtive glances and lascivious looks. A local girl who left the town, married an American, and has now returned; she carries with her a confidence which is at odds with the oppressive and pallid environment that she saunters through.

Bumping into an old flame named Charlie (Del Henney), the first visual hint of the conflict which is set to come is presented. In this prophetic moment Charlie stands on one side of the couple’s white Triumph Stag, while Amy’s husband David (Dustin Hoffman) stands on the other. Between them sits an antique mantrap. Interestingly, Amy is positioned by the driver’s seat; a potential metaphor of her perceived sexual control?

David leaves the pair to chat as he makes his way to a nearby tavern. Snotty and snivelling, he enters into a squalid and sweaty onslaught of brown and grey. A hardworking, rural English pub environment has never seemed more like a saloon in a gold rush township of the old west. His displacement is enough to elicit discomfort in the most seasoned of cineastes, and so the games begin.

Based on Gordon M. Williams’s 1969 novel The Siege of Trencher’s Farm, Straw Dogs was adapted into a screenplay by Sam Peckinpah and David Zelag Goodman, both of whom were somewhat dismissive of the source material from the offset. In a behind the scenes interview conducted by British Television on set, a reporter put it to the director that “Gordon Williams has complained publicly that the film is nothing like the book.” Peckinpah, sat in his director’s chair, wrapped up against the cold, simply states; “I think Mr Williams has a penchant for his own work. I don’t.” Although this line is delivered with a chuckle, it is a very strong indication of the straightforward and confrontational nature of the director.

Peckinpah was an outsider himself, a cinematic Hemingway who had managed to create a great deal of conflict and chaos within his career up unto that point. Loved and revered in equal measure, his films were powerful, harrowing experiences which deeply affected their audiences. He was not a man to toe the line or play by the rules; he created his own as he went. English critic Mark Kermode described Peckinpah as a ‘Director in crisis’ when speaking about Straw Dogs on his documentary Mantrap, but perhaps there is something more complex at play and to get to the root of it, it is necessary to become acquainted with David Sumner.

David Sumner; alone and out of place in the middle of a Cornish pub. A character who exists in a world of conflict; both extrinsic and insular. Here is a man who has left his native home of America, reportedly to escape the violence and pandemonium caused by the Vietnam War. Using the security of a grant to further his studies as a mathematician, he has leased Trencher’s Farm, the childhood home of Amy, for one year. He arrives in England with naïve romanticism, combined with an inability to relate to many of the locals on a base level. While he is polite, he is also perplexed by their mannerisms and conduct, which only serves to distance him even more. After all, this is a man who enters a rural community as not only a foreigner, but an academic and intellectual; it there were ever a cocktail for someone who could be perceived to have airs and graces, or think that he was better than others, this would be it.

Perhaps Peckinpah was seeking refuge in a similar manner. He did, after all, purchase a property in the local area while shooting Straw Dogs, and stated at one point that he planned to move there. It is wholly possible that the tumultuous nature of his homeland had become overwhelming. While based in Mexico for a great part of his life, it was still essential for him to deal with the Hollywood studio system, which was clearly problematic and not in keeping with the majority of his sensibilities.

It is difficult to sum up David’s relationship with Amy. She is young and attractive, but not particularly intellectual. She is also more sexually confident and aware of her desires and needs, whereas his sexuality is expressed in a playful, altogether more childish manner. Two early scenes showcase this dynamic perfectly. In the first, they are careening towards the farm. Any has made a swerve at Charlie and his family, much to David’s amazement. She was embittered by comments that Charlie had made which related to their previous sexual encounters (“Remember when I took care of you Amy?”, “But you didn’t, did you?”) and gets a visible rush from the reckless endangerment of the men’s lives as she intentionally steers towards them. This is followed by a transferral of energy as she makes a dive for David’s crotch, from which he recoils, going as far as to step out of the car and run alongside it. On one level it is a cute and jovial moment, on another it is an indication of his fear of losing control.

Amy has, by now, established herself as an individual who maintains a stronghold over several of the men within the feature. Given the historical context, this could be interpreted as a representation of a modern, liberated woman, or alternatively, a condemnation of it. Peckinpah’s personal relationships were as complex as his professional ones and it is difficult to say whether this could be seen as an indication that there was an inherent fear of the sexual revolution taking place, even on a subconscious level, and that the fate which Amy is to suffer is punishment for this.

This is, however, merely an outsider’s perspective. Peckinpah approaches the issue with a far more straightforward analysis. “There are two kinds of women.” Peckinpah stated in 1972, “There are women and then there’s pussy. A woman is a partner. If you can go a certain distance by yourself, a good woman will triple it. But Amy is the kind of girl, and we’ve all seen them by the millions; they marry, they have some quality, but they’re so goddamn immature, so ignorant as far as living goes, as to what is of value in life, in this case about marriage, that they destroy it. Amy is pussy, under the veneer of being a woman. She is a young, uninformed, bitchy, hot-bodied little girl with a lot going for her, but who hasn’t grown up yet. That’s the part. It wasn’t an attempt to make a statement about women in general, for Christ’s sake… Maybe because of what happens to her, she’ll eventually become a woman.” The final statement is one which had enraged critics and scholars for years as he is referring to a brutal incident which occurs later in the film.

Upon arrival at the farmhouse, David is quizzed further by several men he has hired to work on the house, at which he displays further standoffishness. The men proceed to jeer him behind his back, speaking of Charlie’s conquest of Amy years beforehand. One of them produces a pair of panties which he has stolen from the Sumner’s bedroom.

These men embody the spirit of the town; one formed from hard graft, alcohol and frustration. The apparently idyllic homestead upon which these workmen stand is both an insult and an affront to them. A sentiment shared by most of the locals, and one which they have no qualms in expressing in various forms. What begins as a forced, passive aggressive hospitality, similar to that displayed in Ted Kotcheff’s Wake In Fright, develops over time into something far more sinister. In the earlier pub scene, David has his (American) cigarettes paid for by Tom Hedden (Peter Vaughan) a bitter old soak who has a problem with the bottle. It is not a friendly gesture, but one of control; a play for power that weaves throughout the narrative.

A dramatic winter sunset silhouettes the house as the couple settle in for the night; there is a great unease between them. Amy changes one of David’s complex mathematical equations on his blackboard and when asked if a chair is her fathers, snidely retorts that “Every chair’s my daddy’s chair.” A bold declaration of David’s failure to measure up to another strong male role model in her life. As Amy has now returned to England, it seems as if she is seeing David in a new light, now that she has a direct comparison to place him up against. Further allusions are made to their sex life when David questions the fact that the heater has been removed from his study. Amy innocently states that she intended to put it in the bedroom, which displeases him greatly, and he commandeers it. The fact that he chooses to make his work environment more comfortable than his marital bedroom speaks volumes as to where his priorities lie.

David sulks downstairs, petulant and bored. In bed, Amy instigates sex, which David spoils by pausing to remove his watch and set an alarm for the morning; pragmatism has never been known to be an aphrodisiac and she is clearly disheartened. The lovemaking begins, but once again in the playful manner in which David previously displayed. There is no animalism present in his actions.

An argument the following day significantly put the couple at odds with each other, with David directly dismissing Amy from his study. She is left tearful and dejected, to which David berates her (“Don’t play games with me.”). Her hurt turns to defiance; a childlike act of rebellion and upset which sets off a chain of damaging and terrible events.

straw-dogs

The workmen who have been employed are now almost omnipresent on the farm. Amy begins to toy with them by appearing naked at the window of her bathroom, and showing off her underwear as she gets out of the car. It is around this mark, approximately a quarter of the way through the film that the playfulness turns distinctly nasty. The Sumner’s cat disappears, and the workmen almost force David to crash his car while travelling at speed. This results in a confrontational bar scene in which David tries to ape their passive aggressiveness, buying everyone present a round of drinks. No one acknowledges his gesture one way or another. A silent declaration of war has been declared; David and the townsfolk, David and his wife.

Amy continues to emasculate her husband, embarrassing him at a meeting with the local reverend, who David proceeds to challenge with his subversive beliefs. That night, the sunset is fiercer, the house even more isolated and haunting in appearance.

Such attention to detail in the analysis of a film’s first quarter has never been more imperative to attain a full understanding of the subsequent events. Straw Dogs has, in many ways, fallen between two stools in terms of classification. Oftentimes categorised as a genre piece, this is a slight misnomer which may be to the film’s detriment. Closer in tone to Ingmar Bergman and Sergio Leone than it is to the home invasion or rape revenge films of Ruggero Deodato or Meir Zarchi, it is unfortunate in many ways that Straw Dogs is oftentimes referenced alongside the films of the aforementioned directors (The House On The Edge Of The Park and I Spit On Your Grave respectively), both of whom owe a debt of gratitude to Peckinpah. The problem is that whilst there may be thematic similarities on the surface, they are genre features through and through. Whatever philosophical debates which could be derived from them are shallow and facile when contrasted to the layers of complex psychological behaviour and symbolism on display within Peckinpah’s work.  This categorisation may be partially due to the controversy and subsequent UK ban that took place upon the film’s release. A ban which would remain in place until 2002.

Peckinpah would be the first to dismiss such analysis of his work. In an interview with Playboy Magazine (August 1972), he refuted any such pseudo-intellectual breakdown of the film.

To some, Straw Dogs was a work of integrity but not of major intelligence. To others it was a work of enormous subtlety and substantial intelligence but failed on moral grounds.” he told the interviewer, going on to excise his frustration by adding; “Goddamn it, Straw Dogs is based on a book called ‘The Siege of Trencher’s Farm.’ It’s a lousy book with one good action-adventure sequence in it; the siege itself. You get hired to take this bad book and make a picture out of it. You get handed a scriptwriter and an actor and you’re told to make a picture. You’re given a story to do and you do it the best way you know how, that’s all. So what’s all this shit about integrity and about the picture not being the work of a major intelligence? Once I’m handed something to do, I take the material and try to work something out of it and, not to sound too goddamn pompous about it, what I put into it is what I see, how I feel about how things are or the way they’re going. But I try to tell a story, above all, in terms of the material I’m given, and very seldom have I been given a decent piece of material

Admittedly, Peckinpah seemed to be incensed by a great number of the interviewer’s questions (Playboy: “You think love is the answer?” Peckinpah: “What are you, some kind of nut? All I know about love is: Don’t fuck with it.”), and so it could just be the fact that he was uncomfortable with any deeper exploration of the piece. He did, however, make several important statements in that lengthy conversation which has become one of the most significant points of reference for analysts of the film.

The turning point occurs when David has been taken on a hunting trip with the workmen. Norman (Ken Hutchison) watches him from the undergrowth, while Charlie makes his way back to Trencher’s Farm. Amy, dressed in a bathrobe, answers the door and invites him in where he begins to make advances upon her. She moves and her back is, click here literally, against the wall as he proceeds to beat her and drag her across the floor by the hair, in the style of a caveman. Throwing her to the couch and ripping her clothes, he kisses her. There are tears in her eyes, but she caresses him. Meekly covering herself, the film cuts back to David undressing in the bedroom, a flash of guilt, or comparison, which is sharply dismissed as Charlie begins to unbuckle his belt.

Amy is clearly in great physical and emotional pain as Charlie forces himself upon her. This is the moment which has divided and upset many people for almost half a century; the rape seems to turn into passionate lovemaking. Amy is conflicted and during this, there is a cutaway to the fireplace, where a flame burns; another potential metaphor that Amy has not fully lost all her feelings for Charlie.

Susan George, who carries off the scene with remarkable pathos and skill, has spoken extensively about how her knowledge of what was required in terms of ‘a rape scene’ was vague at best. That’s all the script stated and it never went into specifics on paper. George was beginning to get nervous when Peckinpah gave her a vague outline of what would take place and was going to walk if she wasn’t told what was going to happen. He was cagey and simply said that he wanted it to be the best rape scene that was ever shot. George wanted to do it, but very much on her own terms. She called a meeting with the director and he went into detail about what would happen to her. The first segment was going to be difficult, but it was going to be a lot more straightforward compared to the subsequent incident.

Norman has followed Charlie into the house and has watched the rape take place. In an ambiguous post-coital embrace, Charlie and Amy lie on the couch, but Norman is pointing a shotgun at them and makes a gesture which indicates that it’s his turn next. Charlie shakes his head in protest, but is left with little choice and readies Amy for Norman, who proceeds to violently sodomise her.

There was a falling out between the actress and the director during the run up to the scene and he never spoke a work to her throughout the three days it took to shoot. George was terrified of the whole thing. She has described (in a series of videos on her official site), that when Peckinpah told her Norman was going to bugger her, that she needed an explanation as to what it meant. This aspect of the scene was then brought into question when criticism and censorship honed into view.

The esteemed critic Pauline Kael described Straw Dogs as ‘a fascist work of art’, expressing particular disgust at the reported sodomy, against which Peckinpah argued; “I’d like to point out to Miss Kael and these other so-called critics that rear entry does not necessarily mean sodomy, as they said in their reviews. In the picture, Amy is taken by one guy she used to go with and then she’s taken from the rear by another guy she didn’t want any part of anywhere. The double rape is a little bit more than she bargained for. Anyway, I guess Miss Kael and her friends have anal complexes. Perfectly justified in this day and age.” Roger Ebert’s review in the Chicago Sun Times was also far from complimentary. He lambasted the film for being ‘hypocritical’, going on to say that “it is totally committed to the pornography of violence, but lays on the moral outrage with a shovel.”

The producers of the film also went to great lengths to dispel the interpretation that Amy was anally raped in the picture, going as far as to study the scene in great detail so that they could point out to the censors the physical impossibility of the action, given the positioning of the victim in conjunction with that of the perpetrator. Regardless, the fact remains that the scene is problematic for the simple reason that it appears to split the two incidents into ‘good’ rape and ‘bad’ rape, when both should be handled as equally despicable acts of violence against a young woman. Peckinpah may claim that Amy “Hasn’t grown up yet”, and that “she asked for it”, but this in no way alleviates or justifies the actions which take place.

Amy is enjoying the experience, yes. At first. Dominating and being dominated; the fantasy, too, of being taken by force is certainly one way people make love.” Peckinpah told Playboy, “There’s no end to the fantasies of lovemaking, and this is one of them. Sure, Amy’s enjoying it. At least with the first hombre who takes her. The second one is a bit more than she bargained for, but that’s one of the prices she pays for playing her little game. There’s always a price to pay, doctor.”

Despite the controversy surrounding the film, George is surprisingly candid when discussing it. “I will always be enormously proud of (Straw Dogs).” she states of her role as Amy, which is fortunate, as it has become her most iconic and memorable performance. Hoffman is reticent when asked about the picture. Clearly the film made its mark on him in its own indelible way at some point.

In the conclusion of the film, the Sumners are forced to partake in horrendously violent and deadly measures to protect their home and their own lives. It is within this climax that the secondary transformation of character occurs, that of David. David initially responds to the situation with reluctant violence, but it soon becomes something in which he relishes. To examine this aspect in more detail, we spoke with Rod Lurie, who tackled the film for its 2011 remake.

Straw Dogs Poster

Lurie first saw Straw Dogs at college, a military academy at West Point, where he ran a film society. “I’m not sure that I was a fan the first time I saw it, or even the second.” he admits, “Eventually, what I was able to come and understand was the wisdom of Hoffman’s performance, in the sense that he was precisely following the edict of the director in the film. He definitely had a specific philosophy when he made it.”

Could it be that Hoffman was shown his own heart of darkness during the filming? Peckinpah was noted for creating conflict on set; rising his actors to get the best that he could from them. His goading, pranks and all out intimidation must have been brought into play to extract such a remarkable and terrifying performance from the lead.

Something about this movie troubled me very much.” continues Lurie, “I later figured out that it was because I had a fundamental disagreement with Peckinpah’s scientific and philosophical approach to the film.”

Normally, when a student, writer, or director finds work that they have difficulties with, they make a note of the issues and try and avoid them. Lurie is different in this respect, for he became drawn into the world of this problematic feature in a manner which is almost unprecedented, tackling it head on.

The primary aspect for analysis for Lurie was the violence, particularly what Peckinpah was trying to say about the inherent nature of violence within the individual; that it lies dormant in us all, and that we only need to be placed into a certain situation to unleash it. “Peckinpah was very influenced by a guy called Robert Ardrey.” Lurie explains, “Peckinpah treated this guy like a messiah. He said in interviews that Robert Ardrey is the only true prophet that we have working today.  Ardrey was the guy who espoused the theory of social biology which related to man’s genetic coding to violence. If men are genetically coded to violence, it means that women are influenced by this too and that the women will gravitate to the strongest most powerful man in the tribe. This is why in a Peckinpah film, the character of Amy not only submits to the rape, but seems to enjoy it and what began as a rape ends up as lovemaking.

So when Lurie had to recreate this moment in his own feature, which starred James Marsden and Kate Bosworth in the title roles, how did he approach that ambiguous sequence? “I utterly rejected Peckinpah’s notion,” Lurie states firmly, “and so my character only submits in a way because she cannot overpower the guy. She tried fighting him, but then capitulates because she physically has no other choice. He’s just too big, too powerful and too strong. It’s a conventional rape.”

Lurie’s thematic interpretation of Peckinpah’s original is somewhat different than Peckinpah’s. “He was talking about the natural bestiality of man and that we need to be aware of it curtail it.” Lurie explains, “When I started to do some research on Peckinpah and read all of his notes, it confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt that he was stating that man is genetically encoded to being violent, which is why Hoffman seems to enjoy the violence that he is perpetrating at the end of the film.

He (David Sumner) has finally found himself a release and unleashes this beast that resides within. He is letting go of a suppression that had been occurring all of these years. That is why in the climactic siege at the end he becomes violent with his own wife. He grabs her by the hair and pulls it. It’s a rather precise call back to when she is being raped by Charlie. This shows that he is no better than Charlie, who is one of the two rapists.”

Lurie goes on to state that he feels that this definition does not accurately describe the nature of mankind; that we are not born naturally encoded with violence. “Some of us are, but not everybody.” he says, “We are formed by our environment, how we grew up and what lessons we were taught. That is going to be what eventually codes us. In other words, Peckinpah took a very hard line approach to the film, whereas, I, on the other hand, have a very left wing approach and a very liberal point of view.”

Surely such a difficult and challenging piece, heralded by a man who is a certified cinematic legend, is something that is best left to the ages? It warranted investigation as to why Lurie decided to take on such a gargantuan task in the first place. “A lot of people said to me, ‘Why do you even need to remake this film?’” says Lurie, “My answer was that there’s no need to make any movie. There’s no need to have another Star Wars film. There’s no need for a new James Bond film. Need is a very strong word. The question really should be ‘Does your movie have a purpose?’ So the purpose that I have was almost an experimental one to see if I could take a film that was very right wing and turn it into a left wing film, but which tells almost exactly the same story.”

The 2011 version of Straw Dogs does indeed take a very different stance on its approach to violence. In Lurie’s world it is ingrained in the culture; hunting, football, drinking and manual labour, which are all prevalent factors in the Deep South setting. It is also far less misanthropic; something which the director was very keen to emphasise. “There are very few liberals that are misanthropes.” says Lurie, “We don’t necessarily believe that all men are good, but we do believe that all men are blank slates which can be created one way or another, but that there are good people in the world. In Peckinpah’s world, everybody is bad; everyone is despicable.”

Having addressed the issue of misclassification with regard to Straw Dogs being heralded as a genre feature, it did warrant probing the issue of the home invasion theme. This is, of course the reason why many critics have lumped the film in with far less artistically inclined features; the fact that it elicits fear. The very adult fear of having your private living space encroached upon is one of the most prevalent worries of people, along with illness and loss. Lurie agrees with this;

I think that the home invasion films work to a certain degree, because they are so relatable, but they don’t often succeed to blockbuster level. There’s something very interesting to explore within that. When you have complete fantastical action, like you would in the Avengers films, it’s something that could never happen. You’re not going to have these science fiction characters threatening the earth. You can go in and it’ll serve as minor entertainment.

With home invasion, they’re things that anyone can relate to, so the scare factor is very real. People like to be scared in the movies, and so that can translate into the purchasing of tickets. On the other hand, it’s so real that some people just don’t want to deal with it at all. Straw Dogs is definitely home invasion and the notion that you’re out in the middle of fucking nowhere and that anyone could do anything they want to you and you’re powerless to stop it. That’s something that is one of the reasons that some people were suitors for this. They saw it as a classic thriller and the best thrillers manage to play on your fears and exploit them, make them relatable and therefore increase the scare factor.”

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So, even though neither Peckinpah, nor Lurie approached Straw Dogs as a genre feature, it has become associated with them for the very emotions which it draws out from the audience. Lurie raises the interesting point of ticket sales, for neither Lurie’s film nor the original succeeded financially upon release. “The other real fear that is present in the film, and probably the number one reason that we both got slammed pretty badly at the box office, was rape.” Lurie admits, “This is the worst imaginable fear of most women I know. Why would you want to live through that in a movie? Even If the heroine gets her comeuppance at the very end which happens in my version, not necessarily in the original, it’s because once a woman has gone through a rape, there is little that can be done to emotionally make up for it; even if she gets her revenge. It’s not murder, but part of her has been murdered. Women just don’t want to observe that onscreen. Rape scenes are the hara-kiri of most films and I felt that we could overcome it maybe, but I certainly miscalculated on that one.

Rising to the challenge of taking on one of the most controversial and iconic films of the 1970s, Lurie did a sterling job, but, unfortunately, it was one which was not rapturously received. This may have been an issue of timing. It was preceded by remakes of I Spit on Your Grave and The Last House on the Left, both of which are often mentioned alongside Straw Dogs, when critics dissect the subgenre of the Home Invasion film.

My Straw Dogs was put out by a genre house; Screen Gems,” explains Lurie, “and I remember screening this for a well-known critic who told me afterwards that if my film was put out by Focus or Sony Classics it would be looked at in a very different was to be now that it was being released through Screen Gems. Audiences and critics will look at it strictly as a genre piece. They’re not even going to bother to consider that there might be a deeper philosophical approach to the movie. Whereas, if it was released through an arthouse company, it might be a different story. This wasn’t entertainment for entertainment’s sake; neither my film nor Peckinpah’s.”

Could this be somewhat of a curse of classification?  Now that genre is becoming a pseudonym for horror in many ways, is it time to begin breaking down what constitutes as horror and what is simply horrific? Possibly, but that is for another essay.

The fact remains that there are many books to be written on the complexities of Straw Dogs; both versions. The interplay of sexuality and social standing is something which is rarely dealt with in such a blunt and realist fashion as this. Straw Dogs is an action film, a thriller, a relationship drama, all seamlessly constructed with a chasm of layered metaphor and subtext underneath.

Forty five years hasn’t been long enough for us to figure it out yet.