Authorship and Personal Cinema
Publication Year: 2011
Alistair Fox explores the dynamics of the creative process involved in cinematic representation in the films of Jane Campion, one of the most highly regarded of contemporary filmmakers. Utilizing a wealth of new material -- including interviews with Campion and her sister and personal writings of her mother -- Fox traces the connections between the filmmaker's complex background and the thematic preoccupations of her films, from her earliest short, Peel, to 2009's Bright Star. He establishes how Campion's deep investment in family relationships informs her aesthetic strategies, revealed in everything from the handling of shots and lighting, to the complex system of symbolic images repeated from one film to the next.
Published by: Indiana University Press
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Introduction: Authorship, Creativity, and Personal Cinema
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Several decades after the idea of the author as the prime source of meaning was pronounced “dead,” authorship has once again resurged as a focus of scholarly interest. This renewed preoccupation is apparent in the reprinting of foundational texts in the authorship debate, together with the publication of a volume of essays that revisits key issues that...
1. Origins of a Problematic: The Campion Family
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Richard and Edith Campion, the parents of Jane Campion, came from very different backgrounds. Edith Hannah (whose “unpreferred name” was Beverley Georgette Hannah, according to the records of the Alexander Turnbull Library) was born in 1923, on the same day as Richard Campion, in the same town (Wellington, the capital of New...
2. The “Tragic Underbelly” of the Family: Fantasies of Transgression in the Early Films
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Although Jane Campion attests to having grown up in a loving family, she, like her sister, Anna, nevertheless made haste to distance herself both from its dysfunctions and from the repressiveness of New Zealand society generally. At the earliest opportunity, around the age of...
3. Living in the Shadow of the Family Tree: Sweetie
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Having established in her early films what her main thematic preoccupations would be, and now confident in her ability to tackle a full-length movie as a result of her two features made for television, Jane Campion was ready to extend her exploration of the issues that she now recognized as inherent in her personal problematic. By 1989, the year...
4. “How painful it is to have a family member with a problem like that”: Authorship as Creative Adaptation in An Angel at My Table
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Even though Jane Campion’s films up to and including Sweetie laid out the dynamics of a family problematic in a fairly comprehensive manner, there was one major factor that she had not yet explored in depth: the influence on her of her mother’s lifelong battle with depression. Indeed, there is a curious downplaying of the mother’s role, and even presence...
5. Traumas of Separation and the Encounter with the Phallic Other: The Piano
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Whereas the making of An Angel at My Table allowed Jane Campion to acknowledge through her art the existence of a profound empathic bond with her mother which, in her earlier films, had appeared to be disavowed, it also showed that there were other consequences of that...
6. The Misfortunes of an Heiress: The Portrait of a Lady
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Following the release of The Piano, Jane Campion found herself riding the crest of a wave, hailed as a supreme auteur. The film was greeted with acclaim by most critics and with delighted astonishment by audiences—especially women, who viewed it as a unique expression of...
7. Exacting Revenge on “Cunt Men”: Holy Smoke as Sexual Fantasy
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By the time Campion had completed the three films of her middle career—An Angel at My Table, The Piano, and The Portrait of a Lady—she had gained a deep insight into the psychodynamics involved in the condition of women who are depressed or repressed. She had also...
8. “That which terrifies and attracts simultaneously”: Killing Daddy in In the Cut
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Jane Campion’s In the Cut, which appeared in 2003, is inextricably intertwined with Holy Smoke and appears to be part of the same preoccupation that is apparent in the earlier film, that is, to work through the lingering effects of a trauma that is associated with the father, particularly in terms of the effects of his misdeeds on his wife and, through...
9. Lighting a Lamp: Loss, Art, and Transcendence in The Water Diary and Bright Star
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By the time she finished In the Cut, released in 2003, Jane Campion had become aware that she was beginning to repeat herself. As she puts it, “I was starting to work with a bit of a full suitcase, and the same old suitcase, and that’s why I stopped working for a while, because I wanted to chuck the whole lot out and see what came up.”1 After a "sabbatical” of...
Conclusion: Theorizing the Personal Component of Authorship
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This book has shown how the contents and representational strategies of each of Jane Campion’s films are determined largely by the nature of the filmmaker’s personal investment in her creations. That personal investment, in turn, arises out of and is informed by familial situations that the filmmaker seeks to address through a complex process of condensation...
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Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 22 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2011