Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
United Kingdom/Australia/New Zealand, 1990. Hibiscus Films, New Zealand Film Commission, Television New Zealand, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Channel Four Films. Screenplay by Laura Jones, based on the books To The Is-land, An Angel At My Table, and The Envoy From Mirror City by Janet Frame. Cinematography by Stuart Dryburgh. Produced by Bridget Ikin. Music by Don McGlashan. Production Design by Grant Major. Costume Design by Glenys Jackson. Film Editing by Veronika Jenet. Podcast: My Criterions.
Jane Campion’s masterpiece. It tells the story of Janet Frame, a famous New Zealand author who was subjected to years of electroshock therapy in a mental institution when she was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. During a time when doctors everywhere were looking for new ways to break ground in the ever-widening field of psychoanalysis, Frame was singled out for her extreme shyness and instantly declared mentally unstable.
Based on Frame’s three autobiographies, the film tells a beautiful and complete tale of her life, starting from her childhood with her large family, through to her teen troubles and finally to the place of peace and eventual success that she finds as an adult and an artist. Kerry Fox is mesmerizing in the lead, and Campion never lets the pace flag for a moment in the film’s epic running time.
The Criterion Collection: #301
Venice Film Festival Award: Grand Special Jury Prize