Retrospective of Jane Campion

The Piano

Australia, New Zealand, France, 1993, 121 min.

It is the mid-nineteenth century. Ada is a mute who has a young daughter, Flora. In an arranged marriage she leaves her native Scotland accompanied by her daughter and her beloved piano. Life in the rugged forests of New Zealand’s South Island is not at all what she may have imagined, nor is her relationship with her new husband, Stewart. She suffers torment and loss when Stewart sells her piano to a neighbor, George. Ada learns from George that she may earn back her piano by giving him piano lessons, but only with certain other conditions attached. At first Ada despises George, but slowly their relationship is transformed and this propels them into a dire situation.

Top of the Lake

Australia, New Zealand, UK, 2012, 350 min.

A 12-year-old girl named Tui stands chest-deep in a freezing-cold lake in the wilds of New Zealand, apparently toying with the idea of committing suicide. It transpires that she is five months pregnant. Police detective Robin has been temporarily seconded to her home town. Since she is a specialist in investigating offences involving child abuse, the local police put her on the case. But before she can try to get to know Tui, the girl disappears without a trace. A major search begins. If Robin is to destroy the web of intrigues and machinations, she must first face her own past. Meanwhile, a women’s commune sets up camp in trailers on some enchanted-looking terrain on the shores of the lake. Their leader is a mysterious woman with long, white hair.

With their six-part television series, director Jane Campion and co-director Garth Davis take televisual storytelling to new aesthetic heights. All the elements of a gripping thriller are here but, set in a magical-mystical landscape, Top of the Lake also contains an impressive roster of character studies.