An Angel At My Table
Jane Campion’s second feature, her celebrated international breakthrough is a fascinating and emotionally charged portrait of writer Janet Frame.
Janet Frame was due to undergo a lobotomy when her collection of short stories was awarded a national literary prize. Her work would became inextricably linked to her psychological health. In particular her three works of memoir, To the Is-Land (1982), An Angel at My Table (1984), and The Envoy from Mirror City (1984) which Jane Campion adapted into her second feature. Alexia Keogh, Karen Fergusson and Kerry Fox play Frame as a child, adolescent and adult, each sporting the shock of red hair that became a marked symbol of the writer’s uniqueness. Key to the film is the normalisation of mental illness. In Frames youth it was dealt with harshly; severe treatment was preferred to understanding. In contrast to such an austere environment is Frame’s spirit of endurance and the freedom her writing would eventually give her.
Following her series of acclaimed shorts and debut feature Sweetie, An Angel at My Table cemented Campion’s position as one of contemporary cinema’s leading filmmakers. It’s a position she has maintained with The Piano and the recent The Power of the Dog. But this early film highlights just how fully formed her creative brilliance was so early in her career.