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TMW Featured Article

Investigating Truth in America's Dark Past

David Grann, image courtesy of Amazon

Last week, cinemas have witnessed the release of a masterpiece, “Killers of the Flower Moon.” This film, directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese, transpired from the pages of a widely acknowledged book of the same name by David Grann. Both the book and the movie delve into a harrowing period of American history, shedding light on the sinister shadows that once loomed over the Osage Indian tribe. This piece aims to traverse through the story, characters, and the accolades garnered by both the book and the film, laying bare the essence that makes “Killers of the Flower Moon” a remarkable recount of history.

The Movie

“Killers of the Flower Moon” is a crime drama that unfolds in the 1920s, painting a grim picture of a series of mysterious murders within the Osage tribe, which prompted a significant FBI investigation spearheaded by J. Edgar Hoover. This narrative is brilliantly brought to life under Scorsese’s meticulous direction and the screenplay co-written with Eric Roth. The film boasts a star-studded cast, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Lily Gladstone delivering compelling performances that further accentuate the eerie heart of the narrative​.

The movie’s release was a limited one, hitting select theatres on October 6, 2023, amidst a slew of other movie releases. Despite its limited release, the movie garnered great critical acclaim, holding a stellar 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It also received widespread praise for its screenplay, score, cinematography, production design, and the performances of the lead actors at the 76th Cannes Film Festival. The film’s depiction of the sinister, underlying themes resonated powerfully with audiences, reflecting through its glowing reviews on Metacritic as well​.

The Book

David Grann’s book is not merely a tale but a well-researched documentation of the grim realities faced by the Osage Indians during the 1920s. Grann takes readers through the Reign of Terror, a period marked by brutal murders carried out against the Osage Indians due to their valuable share in an oil wealth. Grann’s account, described as a “page-turner” by Kirkus Reviews, is enriched with haunting prose and bolstered by extensive original research, making it a wonderful read that unveils sinister secrets and reversals at every juncture of the investigation​.

The book was met with widespread acclaim and was listed among the Best Books Of 2017 by Kirkus Reviews. It also secured spots on the New York Times Bestseller and IndieBound Bestseller lists, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. This literary recognition underlines the book’s profound impact in shedding light on a dark chapter of American history, rendering it a significant work of non-fiction​.

How does the movie compare to the book?

The movie follows the narrative laid out in the book closely, depicting the series of harrowing events that befell the Osage tribe during the 1920s. Both mediums aim to shed light on the historical injustices, although the cinematic adaptation might offer a more dramatized experience due to its visual and auditory elements. The creative liberty taken in the movie does not stray away from the essence of the real incidents, making both mediums complementary to each other in understanding the depth of the historical events.

Is it necessary to read the book before watching the movie?

It’s not necessary to read the book before watching the movie. However, reading the book can provide a deeper understanding of the historical context and the real-life characters involved in the events portrayed in the movie​. Additionally, reading the book may enrich the viewing experience by providing a more nuanced understanding of the socio-political dynamics of the era.

What inspired David Grann to write “Killers of the Flower Moon”?

David Grann was inspired to write the book after learning about the “Osage Murders” from a historian. The mysterious killings among the Osage Indians piqued his interest, leading to extensive research that formed the basis of the book​. Grann’s curiosity led to uncovering a largely forgotten chapter of American history, thereby giving voice to the Osage tribe’s harrowing experiences.

How accurate is the depiction of events in the book and movie?

The book is a result of thorough research and aims to provide an accurate depiction of the events. The movie, while adhering to historical facts, may have dramatized certain elements for cinematic effect. Moreover, the authenticity in the portrayal of characters and events adds a layer of gravitas that resonates with the audience, making the story more impactful.

What are the primary themes explored in both the book and movie?

Both mediums explore themes of greed, racial injustice, and the pursuit of truth amidst a series of sinister crimes against the Osage Indians during a dark period in American history. The exploration of these themes serves as a somber reflection of the past, urging audiences to acknowledge and learn from historical injustices.

How have audiences responded to the portrayal of events in the book and movie?

Critics and audiences have lauded both the book and the movie for their compelling narrative and the spotlight they shine on a significant, yet often overlooked, chapter of American history. The book received several accolades, including being a National Book Award Finalist, while the movie garnered critical acclaim at various film festivals and platforms like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. The resonating narrative and its compelling portrayal in both mediums have ignited conversations about the often-overlooked dark chapters of American history, highlighting the importance of revisiting and understanding the past.

The movie is described as an “excellent and twisty retelling of an abhorrent and brutal time in our history,” with Martin Scorsese praised for his masterful creation of tension and a sense of uneasiness.

Takeaway

Both the book and the movie “Killers of the Flower Moon” serve as harrowing reminders of a gruesome past, brilliantly narrated through Grann’s investigative prowess and Scorsese’s cinematic genius. The critical acclaim and literary reputation garnered by them accentuate their significance in recounting a chilling yet essential chapter of American history. Through their compelling story and powerful depiction, both mediums contribute a lot to the tales of the Osage Indian tribe, making “Killers of the Flower Moon” a remarkable confluence of history, crime, and justice.

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