One of the most cinematically gorgeous independent films in a long time, “Dead Man’s Burden” (along with 2012 indie “Beasts of the Southern Wild," shot on Super 16) truly makes the case for celluloid. While watching this meditative Western, one simply wants to drink in the beauty of the image, and yes, that image is created on 35 mm film. They don’t make RED cameras that can do what film achieves in terms of sheer richness of image. In the age of digital everything, might independent film, at one time the dominion of digital, be the savior of celluloid? “Dead Man’s Burden” (the directorial debut of Jared Moshé) demonstrates just why film is important, simply by being beautiful. But beyond that, it’s also a moody, violent, classic, yet modern Western.
“Dead Man’s Burden” is pretty darn classical in its themes, look and execution. The dialogue and performances are pitch perfect, almost to the point of too perfect, but the talented actors balance it just right. Bowen as the traumatized but steely young girl trying to make a life for herself is especially impressive; she compels the audience to both fear her and feel for her, and it’s quite a feat. Call is also a magnetic presence on screen, even when he’s still (especially when he is), and Jacobs holds the film together as the quiet presence of morality and judgment in a world gone mad. “Dead Man’s Burden” is worth the watch for its sheer beauty, but it’s also a slow burner of Western tragedy that hails many new talents to keep an eye on. [B+]