Top of the Lake (New Zealand-Australia-UK)

Arty genre

Arty genre

As mentioned in the previous post, it’s arguable that TV’s where it’s ‘at’ at the moment and Jane Campion directed, and co-wrote, this detective six parter so it is inevitably worth watching. However… Worth watching because we can be sure that Campion would put an interesting feminist spin on the genre and offer a thought-provoking narrative. And so she does but not wholly successfully. Part of the problem for me is Elizabeth Moss in the lead; she never convinced me (though I think she’s excellent as Peggy in Mad Men), sometimes what appeared to be a supercilious smile infected her expression. . And then there’s the elliptical finale with its grand revelation that, in arthouse style, is under-played. In arthouse film such under-playing (eg the cutaway when Al is shot and the barely glimpsed debauchery) usually adds power; maybe it’s TV’s small screen that diminishes such devices.

That said, it is beautifully mounted, the Kiwi locations are stunningly shot and Peter Mullan refines his vile persona to great effect as the patriarch, Matt. Maybe I felt deflated at the end because the ‘shock’ is, once again, sexual abuse of children. Unfortunately, with wider reporting, that has now become too commonplace to be truly shocking, disgusting as it is. Maybe the focus could have been more on Matt’s clan – they were disturbing enough anyway!

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