Monday, September 16

Top of the Lake: a review

Last night, cold, autumnal, bowl of homemade apple crumble in hand, I finally finished watching Jane Campion's Top of the Lake. The warm oaty crumble didn't quite match the sombre mood of the acclaimed BBC2 series, but whatever.

I was slow on the uptake with Top of the Lake. It was only after episode 4 had aired that the cogs of my dusty brain began to wheeze into action and I'd headed over to BBC iplayer. Then a week away in Cornwall kind of got in the way of things and before I knew it, I'd had to resort to my Lovefilm high priority list to wrap things up.

It was worth the wait.

Top of the Lake is dark, bleak, full of storylines unraisable at the dinner table: rape, a pregnant twelve year old, a house full of brutal men and dogs, drugs, incest, murder, cancer. Yep, it's pretty much a full bag of hefty topics. Yet unlike The Village (a period drama recently on BBC - I have never seen anything so depressing) it kept me gripped and I loved it.

This was partly due to the New Zealand scenery and the cinematography. Mirrored lakes, golden fields, crisp air. The colours were beautiful. The set design was beautiful.

It was also partly due to the characters. Robin, played by Elisabeth Moss, is awesome; kick-ass, gorgeous, clever and vulnerable all at once. GJ (Holly Hunter), who appears to be some bullshitty weirdo, is actually so, so great. Her reminder throughout the whole series is that the only person who can fix the problems in your life is you - that's important. And Tui (Jacqueline Joe) is utterly captivating.

Then there are the men. I fell in love with Johnno, with his campfires, his beard and his guitar. Some of the other males are less appealing; all beer, drugs, vicious dogs and brawls. In fact there was an unfavourable ratio of 'nice female characters' to 'nice male characters' (apparently feminism has some way to go in New Zealand). I guess this could warrant an argument that Top of the Lake is 'over-feminist', that all the male characters are violent dicks, that feminist attitudes are crowbarred onto script and plot. I would disagree with that argument.

This is simply a story told from the female point of view, for once. Because the majority of film and tv is still male-orientated. There are far more male characters than female. Female characters are often one-dimensional, stereotyped and dumbed down. There are no main female characters, or if there are it's a rarity that has to be commented on in every single review, oh and she'll probably have some major weakness (think Carrie in Homeland). In Top of the Lake Jane Campion has done things differently.

Don't let the 'feminism' and the gritty storylines put you off. Top of the Lake is a thing of aesthetic and enthralling beauty, and it has substance, too.

1 comment:

  1. I am such a fan of British television. They just seem to get it right. There are no endless, draining, and recycled series' like American's tend to produce. I'm not even going to go into Canadian TV shows... there are like two good ones in the history of Canadian television....two. Not that I watch TV very often but when I do I am really drawn to the BBC. I am currently waiting for Sherlock and Downton to come back!! Sometimes Coronation Street on youtube just isn't enough. haha!

    All that talk up there to say: I will have to check this one out!