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on 19 December 2004
An amazing film, which I had seen before viewed on tv in new zealand many years ago and was instantly compelled to add it to my collection once seeing it available on amazon. It is a film about one of new zealand's most famous writers, and the making of her, and her life. She had a most interesting, tragic life, and this film directed by jane campion gives you a feeling of being there, and almost going through what she did. It has amazing scenery and I can honestly say that it is very true to how new zealand is and was in some ways.
A must view, if you are into a real life drama which gives you an insight to a small world far away in the 1940's, as well as a controversial life.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 April 2012
Unlike Jane Campion's other films and most other Antipodean movies, An Angel at My Table is still resolutely hidden away under "World Cinema" in shops and such. Nothing necessarily wrong with that but it does mean that it remains unknown to most, even seasoned cineastes. Even if you know you want it, buying it (before these days of internet shopping), it took me many trips to bigger DVD shops in bigger cities, 'til I found it.

This, my second viewing after many years, the biographical story of Janet Frame still packs its punch. I was so impressed the first time round, I lent it to a consultant psychiatrist friend, to view as a case study and how attitudes and practices had changed. He didn't reveal any trade secrets, though, saying only that it was a very good film.

In this respect, I'm talking about Frame's hospitalisation and misdiagnosis, which of course, is only one strand of her story. Growing up with 4 other brothers and sisters, she's like any other little girl, a bit naughty, a bit chubby, getting into trouble. And she writes poetry. When her sister Myrtle accidentally drowns, Janet loses her herself further and further in that poetry, making her withdraw from society - and into herself.

Originally shown on New Zealand TV in three parts, it is still segmented into parts 1, 2 and 3, each dealing with a particular period in her life. If the total 2.5 hours seems long, then watch it as a serial, each being 50 mins long.

Being biographical and from the pen of a best-selling author about herself, as you would expect, the script and its portrayal is lush, vivid and full of little personal details and insights. Each of the three actors who play her as a child, teenager and then, Kerry Fox as the adult, are very good. But as Fox makes her appearance at the start of episode 2, and covers most of her turbulent life, she makes by far the most impression.

The overall feeling is one of an unsensationalised but very powerful story that has been expertly crafted by Campion. We are led gently into Frame's world, feel privileged to have travelled with her, however difficult that has been and ultimately, left with a big feeling of triumph.
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VINE VOICEon 25 June 2015
Janet Frame was an extraordinary sensitive individual without a social skin, she was socially awkward and reserved her self for creative expression in poetry, novels and short stories. She avoided giving interviews or articulating her views. She wrote of experiences that haunted her and she had many traumatic experiences to overcome in her youth : childhood in a poor family during the Depression; a traumatised adolescence( she lost 2 sisters through drowning 10 years apart); extreme shyness;troubled university years in Dunedin that led to a nervous breakdown; misdiagnosis of schizophrenia and ,unnecessarily,200 ECT treatments; fear of authority.She had courage too, writing was her salvation,words her refuge and triumph, to transcend her anxieties and grief through the therapy of art and imagination. Always a great reader.she retreated from the world and society into nature. Frame faces great difficulty in adapting to the conventional rural life around her, and her social awkwardness only worsens as she grows older. Frame's autobiographical articulation of an imaginative female mind with its wings clipped by the stultifying social conformity of 1950s New Zealand was ripe material for Campion's preoccupations: as a way to reconnect with her personal experience: "[Frame's autobiography] awakened my own memories of my childhood; her book really seemed to me to be an essay on childhood in New Zealand."

There are figures/events which help release her from her isolation : Money, a tutor of psychology at university; her 1st book of published stories which saves her from a lobotomy; Frank Sargeson,the writer, who allowed Janet to stay in a hut in his garden to write(1955-56),who helped her get a book published; an American professor/poet with whom she experienced 1st love; the travel scholarship which frees her to travel and experience the world outside New Zealand, beautifully captured by Campion,who pays equal attention to Frame's subsequent life, as she slowly adjusts to life in the outside world, experiencing literary success and her first romance. Expressive visuals add immeasurably to the total effect, while Kerry Fox's superb performance creates a truly affecting portrait of Frame. Impressively, the film was originally made as a mini-series for New Zealand television, and slightly reedited for a later theatrical release. Campion shows very well the thin line between creativity and madness, depicted with unsentimental honesty that veers between naturalism and surrealism. Frame, bright but intensely passive, inhabits a chaotic universe, is embodied by 3 red haired brilliant actresses, each one growing out of the one before. The film ends with Frame’s return to New Zealand where she is finally free to creatively nourish her solitude in a fond and familiar setting. This reminded me of Seraphine, another film where the artist ended up in a lunatic asylum. A film full of light and joy.
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on 20 December 2014
I felt compelled to watch An Angel At My Table after seeing it on a list of recommended films about writers. Additionally, I feel very strongly in my soul, regardless of what some of my well- meaning critics may say, that it is part of my destiny to become a writer on the side. I intend to write and publish under an alias and/or pen name and credit countless people for inspiring me (such as a recent encouraging e-mail pertaining to authorship that I received from Sean Malarkey). Still, I found An Angel At My Table motivational because this movie centers around the true life story of a woman named Janet Frame (played by Kerry Fox) who enjoys a distinguished career as a writer despite acting different from other ladies who lived around the same time period (including her biological female family members). Sadly, she is at first misdiagnosed to be schizophrenic and almost ends up having to undergo a complete lobotomy. I must leave out how she gets out of this situation for those who have yet to see An Angel At My Table. However, from my perspective, this film captures in a humane and brilliant way the highs and lows of her life. Divided into three parts, this film captures moments such as when she first falls in love and another scene where she ends up getting romantically swept off her feet by another accomplished individual. Part one transitions into part two via the action point of her going off to college. Part two to three makes the transition of her going abroad from New Zealand to England and then to Spain. Quotes from the Shakespeare play of The Tempest and another quote from Robert Burns of Duncan Gray are featured in the movie transitions.
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on 17 March 2016
It was all right - flatter than a pancake and presented with the minium of fuss; Angel At My Table was presented as the thing Pseudo-intellectuals a like me should see after graduating from University, and it is a good film make with integrity and good manners.
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on 10 February 2009
I watched this when it first came out in the cinema years ago and loved it then, watching it again just recently Id forgotten how detailed it was. Its a sad and uplifting story well worth watching
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on 22 December 2005
This is an enjoyable film. It has the beautiful scenery of New Zealand along with the harsh realities of how incommpassionate humans can be towards each other. It shows how adversity can triumph eventually. The three actresses who take the lead role in the various periods of Janet's life in this trilogy are excellant. The film is worth watching, but can seem "drawn out" at times; overcome that, and you have a good film.
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on 5 December 2011
This is a beautiful film based on the autobiographies of Janet Frame. Everything about the film shows a sensitive and haunting appreciation of this wonderful writer. Visually it is a delight and the three actors who play Janet at different stages of her life are superb.
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on 9 October 2016
Really down to earth. Brilliant
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on 5 April 2016
Kept me engaged to the last
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