Martin Scorsese: "The question is not who was complicit in the extermination of the Osage, but who was not"

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Half an hour, half a dozen questions. Martin Scorsese He knows what he’s talking about, but, above all, he talks about what he knows. And a lot. The director completed the presentation ‘urbe, orbi et global zoom’ of ‘The Moon Killers’ and he did it from the sofa at home. Advantages of traveling on the internet. The film that premieres this Friday after its presentation at the last edition of Cannes is destined to mark the year, the awards season and, for that matter, the decade. This one we stepped on and some others. Not only is it a revision of a genre as classic as ‘western‘ but, by the way, it seems like a declaration of love for cinema as a means of expression, as a way of transforming consciences and, while we’re at it, as art. Whatever the latter is.

“It’s a matter of trust and love,” says Scorsese to explain two things. On the one hand, the relationship between the two characters around which the film revolves: that of the careerist Ernest Burkhart whom he plays Leonardo DiCaprio and that of the native Osage Mollie who is in charge Lily Gladston. And on the other hand, his own relationship with Robert De Niro to which he is united by an entire life (more than 50 years) since, not necessarily early childhood. “He’s the only one who really knows where I come from: the people I met and that kind of stuff. Some of them, by the way, still alive. I know his old friends. And we had a real proving ground in the ’70s where we tried everything and discovered that we trusted each other. It’s about trust and love.” But, in truth, there is a third issue that the sentence that begins the paragraph attests to: Scorsese’s own conception of cinema. He didn’t say this, but as if he did.

Scorsese says that his first idea (his and DiCaprio’s own) was to make a kind of ‘thriller’ where the white man disguised as an FBI agent arrived at the scene of the crime and there, to no one’s surprise, discovered the murderers. and redeemed everyone. But who were these criminals? And here things got complicated to the point of completely changing the intention and direction of the film. In fact, DiCaprio handed over the role of agent to Jesse Plemons because it wasn’t about that anymore. “I understood that it was not about finding the culprit, who did it, but rather who did not do it… The history of the Osage is a story of complicity; it is a story of sin by omission: silent complicity of all”.

And here it is worth stopping to find the meaning of what for Scorsese and his film is something more than just basic; It is the root of everything. What David Grann tells in the book on which the film is based is the story of a plunder, yes, but a very particular one; unprecedented in its own way and yet exemplary in the way it portrays the greed that fuels colonialism in any of its forms. In 1872, the Osage tribe decided, tired of going from one place to another, to buy themselves a reservation. As fate would have it, the Oklahoma land they acquired held an unthinkable secret: oil. And so, for a time in the 1920s, they became the richest people on the planet. They lived in sumptuous houses, they got luxurious cars and, what’s the matter, they employed white servants.

Scorsese’s story begins with William ‘King’ Hale (De Niro), a white rancher who befriended the Osage and gained their trust to, in effect, try to take everything from them. To do this, he encouraged his nephew (DiCaprio) to marry an Osage woman (Gladstone). “What made us rethink everything is that, despite everything, they loved each other. He won [hemos llegado] his trust and his love,” says Scorsese, and he says it because it was then that the film changed completely, gained in complexity and truth, and the multiple conversations held with the heirs of the ‘Reign of Terror’ (that’s what that period was called) finally acquired meaning. Remember, it is believed that more than 100 Osage were murdered in total (and most of the crimes remain unsolved). DiCaprio’s character loved her wife, we said, just at the same time that he was planning to murder her. As contradictory as real life. “The question is not who was complicit, but who was not,” concludes the director.

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