Jane Campion Rewatches Her Own Classic
One of the world’s most unconventional filmmakers, New Zealander Jane Campion talks with The Guardian about the end of the patriarchy, doing away with decorum, and how losing her baby son changed her forever.
Twenty-five years ago this month, Campion became the first, and so far the only, female director to win the Cannes film festival, with her wild gothic tale of repression and obsession, The Piano. When Campion broke through and was recognised as an auteur by her male peers – with the Palme d’Or and three Oscars in her handbag – feminists assumed that more women artists would follow in her wake. They were wrong.
There was no great bursting of the financial and cultural dam that held back women filmmakers. Instead their work filtered through in drips, excluded from directing blockbusters, and excluded from competition at Cannes and other festivals. “I think we got caught in a complicated supplicancy, a very sophisticated supplicancy,” Campion says.
But now, a quarter of a century later, Campion feels that time is up for supplicancy as the #MeToo movement reverberates in the film industry and beyond. “Right now, we’re in a really special moment. I’m so excited about it. It’s like the Berlin wall coming down, like the end of apartheid. I think we have lived in one of the more ferocious patriarchal periods of our time, the 80s, 90s and noughties. Capitalism is such a macho force. I felt run over.”
“Rewatching my films is like digging up buried bones,” says Campion, who is 64. Yet when she saw The Piano again recently (she laughs that she could only find a French dubbed version, but at least the heroine played by Holly Hunter is mute), “I really felt excited by it. I thought, my God, this is a film told from a female point of view and nowadays that’s still so rare. Even when a story appears to be from a female point of view, it’s often an apology for it.”
“Hero stories are wearing thin. We have lived a male life, we have lived within the patriarchy. It’s something else to take ownership of your own story.”
Ever the iconoclast, Campion is going against the trend by writing her first male lead in her new (untitled) film. “Because at last I feel I can.”
The Piano is re-released in cinemas on 15 June and on DVD, Blu-ray and download on 16 July.
Original article by Kate Muir, The Guardian, May 20, 2018.
Photo by Sally Bongers.