, know for his energetic, if not violent movies, has made a career of taking what for others would be simply gratuitious
, and making myth
In The Wild Bunch, he tells the story of a man drawn toward his comrades, and pushed from his enemies, using cinematic techniques to force us to reconsider what is actually happening.
In Straw Dogs there is not the movement of his other films; David hopes to find a sanctuary from the world, so he can do his advanced research on stars--and what could be more abstract, more divorced from reality and its violence.
David fled the violence in California, with its student riots and police repression, to come to the home of his new--and smolderingly sexual wife--to find peace; even she has other plans; part of the tension comes from the apparant mis-match fo the cerebral david with his sensual wife.
I cannot adequately describe the reactions to the first viewing of the film a close woman friend and I had: we were simply overwhelmed by the power of it. Peckinpah orchestrates the sexual undertones to fuel a story that for all its modern trappings, is primeval.
Like Deke Thornton, played by Robert Ryan in The Wild Bunch, David is not the originator of the action, though he is living out the consequences of his decision to flee the world--if you leave the world, the world will seek you out with a vengeance, or so is Peckinpah's message.
The tension rises to an unbearably pitch as David is led on a hunting expedition by the men who are fixing up the house he has rented, and are old friends of his wife. It is a pretext to get him away from her. As he waits, the scene cross-cuts to the brutal double-rape of his wife; he just sits there, in the light of a star, waiting for the others to send quail to him.
When it does come, and he kills it, there is a curious irony as we feel, knowing of the attack on his wife mixes with his response to the killing of a small bird.
The violence that erupts around the house is not simply to defend the young mentally disabled man, as plutonic describes; it is the primeval obligation to defend the home. And again, we see a character who seems to make a decision--extending protection to this man--but who is driven by deeper powers, called up by external events. What can be left to him of his own sanctuary?
The violence that follows almost completely discahrges the tension that Pechinpah builds up in the beginning of the film--like a rollercoaster the ride down is much faster, and more thrilling than the ride up.
Movies about the violence of pornography, or the pornography of violence ultimately fail to move in the way Straw Dogs does. What little power they have draws strength from the deepest recesses of us all, where myth lives, powering our lives like the sun itself.
And what are the ceremonial objects? I could be said that these are the very things that David holds dear, only to discard them as rubbish when there time comes, as Heaven and Earth treat the ten thousand things in Tiefling's description above--or even the film itself, Peckinpah's advanced research in this sun, only to be discarded as a little known porno flick.