(Jane Campion, New Zealand, 1990) 158 minutes


Director: Jane Campion
Producer: Bridget Ikin
Screenplay: Laura Jones, based on the autobiographies by Janet Frame
Photography: Stuart Dryburgh
Editor: Veronika Haussler
Music: Don McGlashin
Kerry Fox (Janet)
Alexia Keogh (Young Janet)
Karen Fergusson (Teenage Janet)
Iris Churn (Mum)
K J Wilson (Dad)
Melina Bernecker (Myrtle)

Reviews and notes

Janet Frame has called Jane Campion's three-part television adaptation of her autobiographies "delightful" and it's not difficult to imagine her enjoyment of this telling of her story. ANGEL AT MY TABLE is a much more conventional work than either Sweetie or the books on which it is based. For a start, it has a heroine. The portrait of a sweet-natured, imaginative, painfully embarassed girl and young woman who became a great writer is a 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 direct emotional impact than anything Campion has done before.

Like all of her work and much of Frame's, ANGEL AT MY TABLE 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. Laura Jones' adaptation has the modesty and good sense not to delve into the meanings behind those intriguing titles: To the Is-Land, Angel at My Table and Envoy from Mirror City. The dramatic 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 writing saved Janet Frame's life, but for her remarkable perceptions about turning life into writing, it's necessary to retum to the books. In doing so, it will be impossible to put aside the pictures conjured up in Jane Campion's lovely homage.
-Bill Gosden, Wellington Film Festival, 1990.

Weblink: Review by Roger Ebert

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