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AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE

New Zealand, 1990 (MIFF 1990)

Director: Jane Campion

“BEING A NEW ZEALANDER, I grew up with Janet Frame's fiction - her chilling and poetic first novel Owls Do Cry and the prevailing legend of Janet as New Zealand's 'mad writer'. We all knew of her supposed schizophrenia. Many believed her writings were inspirations of her madness. But the autobiographies painfully and truthfully unravel this myth... Janet's fresh exploration of her childhood and life opened up my own, stimulating many painful and funny memories that somehow under Janet's courage and beam of honesty no longer seem so bad or so embarrassing." - Jane Campion.

Janet Frame has called Jane Campion's three-part television adaptation of her autobiographies 'delightful' and it's not difficult to understand why. Its portrait of a sweet-natured, imaginative, painfully embarrassed girl and young woman who became a great writer is a highly sympathetic and admiring one. There are passages of fierce identification with Frame's pain - her last sight of her sister Myrtle, her subjection to shock treatment, for example - that have a simpler, more acute emotional impact than anything Campion has done before.

Like all of Campion's work and much of Frame's, Angel is characterised by arresting perceptions of the absurd and the beautiful in the ordinary. Beautifully shot, it also displays a keen, often eerily accurate eye for the New Zealand past.

The focus is on Frame's life, her family and her relationship to a society that long deemed her crazy and locked her away for eight years. We're left in no doubt that it was writing that saved Janet Frame's life, but for her remarkable perceptions about turning life into writing, it's necessary to return to the books. In doing so, it will be impossible to put aside the pictures conjured up in Jane Campion's lovely homage. - (BG)

There will be two fifteen minute intervals between episodes.

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