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Criterion Collection: Angel At My Table (1990)

Criterion Collection: Angel At My Table (1990)

5.0 2
Director: Jane Campion

Cast: Kerry Fox, Alexia Keogh, Karen Fergusson

New Zealand poet Janet Frame is the subject of Jane Campion's biographical drama, which presents a poetically evocative look at the authoress' turbulent life. The film begins with a look at Frame's childhood, showing her as a bright but odd-looking, emotionally fragile young girl with a knack for writing. Frame faces great difficulty in adapting to the conventional


New Zealand poet Janet Frame is the subject of Jane Campion's biographical drama, which presents a poetically evocative look at the authoress' turbulent life. The film begins with a look at Frame's childhood, showing her as a bright but odd-looking, emotionally fragile young girl with a knack for writing. Frame faces great difficulty in adapting to the conventional rural life around her, and her social awkwardness only worsens as she grows older. After she fails in her attempt to become a schoolteacher due to an intense panic attack, she is subject to a psychiatric evaluation and shamefully misdiagnosed as a schizophrenic. Frame is subsequently committed to a mental institution, where she suffers years of unnecessary shock treatments and other horrors. Her salvation comes through her writings, however, which attract the attention of a renowned author who arranges her release. While the nightmare of Frame's institutionalization is presented with great sensitivity and power, Campion and screenwriter Laura Jones, to their credit, refuse to simplify her story to this one pivotal event. Instead, they pay equal attention to Frame's subsequent life, as she slowly adjusts 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 Impressively, the film was originally made as a mini-series for New Zealand television, and slightly reedited for a later theatrical release.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Michael Hastings
Originally commissioned as a miniseries for New Zealand television, Jane Campion's sophomore directorial effort is a sprawling adaptation of the memoirs of author and poet Janet Frame, whose budding talents as a young writer were squelched by her community's -- and at times, even her own -- conviction that she be institutionalized. The film is as much a chronicle of one woman's changing emotional landscape as it is an expose of the sordid conditions of the country's psychiatric hospitals of the '50s, where Frame was left to languish until her writings attracted the attention of influential writers and editors. The perennially reliable character actress Kerry Fox established herself in the role of the adult Frame, and she delivers delicate, carefully modulated emotion beneath Frame's trademark shock of red hair. The film bears more than a passing resemblance to later "institutionalized genius" pictures (most notably 1996's Shine), but Campion avoids letting her subject become a mere martyr; there are incidents in which Frame exercises bad judgement, and her transition to the life of a successful, independent woman is a shaky, apprehensive one. As is common in Campion's films, however, the director seems to be outlining a larger social pathology behind her heroine's insecurity and pathos. Angel marked the beginning of the director's kinetic, distinctive work with cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh, who would also shoot The Piano and Portrait of a Lady.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
Sales rank:

Special Features

New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Stuart Dryburgh and approved by director Jane Campion; New Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack; Audio commentary featuring Campion, Dryburgh and actress Kerry Fox; A 10-minute documentary about the making of An Angel at My Table; 6 deleted scenes; My Say, an audio interview with Janet Frame from 1983; Original theatrical trailer; Stills gallery; Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing; Plus a 40 page booklet

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Kerry Fox Janet Frame
Alexia Keogh Janet Frame, as a Child
Karen Fergusson Janet Frame as a child
Iris Churn Mother
K.J. Wilson Dad
Glynis Angell Isabel Frame
Melina Bernecker Myrtle Frame
William Brandt Bernard
Sarah Smuts-Kennedy June Frame
Colin McColl John Forrest
Martyn Sanderson Frank Sargeson
David Letch Patrick
Peter Dennett Mark Goulden
David McKenzie Alan Sillitoe
Paul Sanchez Francesca
Peter Needham Dr. Palmer
Natalie Ellis Aunt Isy
Eddie Hegan Uncle George
Andrew Binns Bruddie
Melanie Reid Melanie
Willa O'Neill Edith
Karla Smith Sybil
Edith Campion Miss Lindsay
Rod Collinson Mr. Niles
Alison Bruce Dora
Donnell Doreen Teacher
Sarah Llewwllyn June Frame - as a Child
Maria Mercedes Marato Catalina
Hamish McFarlane Avril Luxon
Susan McGregor June Frame, as a Teenager,Pamela
Dave Scott Doctor
Cushla Aston Borstal Girl
Billy Atkinson Mrs. Morgan
Anne Cockroft Nurse
Eleanor Wragge Ruth Sillitoe
Melissa Dawson Nora Bone
Lillian Enting Miss Crowe
Angela Ford Turning Girl
Gwyneth Hugues Matron
Blair Hutchinson Bully Boy
Annabel Lomas Mrs. Chandler
Elizabeth MacRae Nurse
Faith Martin Actor
Diana Rowan Actor
Lorna Storm Groovy Girl
Margaret Gordon Neighbor
Jessie Mune Janet Frame - as a Baby
Francesca Collins Baby Jane
Mark Morrison Buddie Frame, as a Child
Katherine Murray-Cowper Young Isabel
Mark Thomson Billy Delaware
Brenda Kendall Miss Botting
Paul Moffat Dis McIvor
David McAuslan Bully Boy
Ailene Herring Teacher
Faye Flegg Doctor
Carla Hedgeman Young Poppy
Timothy Bartlett Gussy Dymock
Richard Mills Talent Scout
Sassy Acorn Audition Girl
Tony Creamer Audition Boy
Geoff Barlow Headmaster
Samantha Townsley Isabel Frame, as a Teenager
Christopher Lawrence Buddie Frame, as a Teenager
Fiona Kay Marguerite
Eileen Clark Neighbour
Caroline Somerville Poppy, as a Teenager
Fiona Brown Shirley
Maureen Duffy Miss Farnie
Fritha Stalker Bridget
Natasha Gray Lesley
Kelly Stewart Rose
Erin Mills Katherine
Virginia Brocklehurst Rona
Erin Dorricott Eunice
Francene Clark Mary
Alistair Douglas Headmaster
Harry Lavington Head of Psychology
Sheryl Stewart Nurse Maitland
Jacqueline O'Rourke Borstal Girl
Caroline Flint Mrs. Goulden
Gerald Bryan Dr. Crawley
Rachel Hernandez Columba
Jim Rawdon Wilson
Peter Brunt Dr. Burt
Celia Nicholson Piona
Joshua Cole June and Wilson's Child
Ian Hendl June and Wilson's Child
Jessica Wilcox Kay Stead
Mark Clare Karl Stead
Helene Anderson Norwegian Woman
Joan Foster Hotel Manageress
Rob Jayne Ben
Sharon Marsden Katie
Julia Calvo Spanish Woman on Train
Carlos Martinez Spanish Official
Maria Matias Spanish Woman
Michael Harry Colin
Timothy Smith Edwin Mather

Technical Credits
Jane Campion Director
Stuart Dryburgh Cinematographer
Jackie Gilmore Art Director
Majory Hamlin Makeup
Veronika Haussler Editor
Bridget Ikin Producer,Production Manager
Glenys Jackson Costumes/Costume Designer
Laura Jones Screenwriter
Lisa Kissin Production Designer,Production Manager,Set Decoration/Design
Grant Major Producer,Production Designer
John Maynard Asst. Director,Co-producer
Don McGlashan Score Composer
Elle Stephenson Makeup

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Angel at My Table
1. To the Is-Land [4:14]
2. Making Friends [5:10]
3. Outsiders [3:52]
4. Poppy [3:21]
5. A Poem [3:18]
6. Discoveries [6:16]
7. A New Friend [6:34]
8. "Where's Myrtle?" [5:48]
9. "I'm Going to be a Poet" [5:06]
10. Changes [8:09]
11. Training College and University [5:01]
12. Isabel Arrives [6:16]
13. "Face-to-Face With the Future" [4:05]
14. Stage Fright [4:46]
15. Hospital [5:15]
16. Diagnosis [2:23]
17. Another Tragedy [3:15]
18. Shock Treatment [2:56]
19. Publication [2:39]
20. Frank Sargeson [5:59]
21. A Literary Grant [5:42]
22. Europe [3:07]
23. Ibiza, Spain [8:51]
24. Una Escritora [3:34]
25. An American Arrives [4:54]
26. Boyfriend [2:54]
27. Grief [8:19]
28. New Diagnosis [7:00]
29. Going Home [8:43]
30. "Hush Hush Hush" [4:36]
31. Color Bars [5:54]
1. Toilet [:30]
2. Jump Rope [:35]
3. In the Garden [:34]
4. The Departure [:48]
5. An Encounter in London [:18]
6. Staying There [:26]


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Criterion Collection: Angel At My Table 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Joyachiever More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago