Wednesday, April 8, 2009

An Angel at my Table


You've probably noticed from my sidebar, that I'm reading a book by New Zealand novelist and poet, Janet Frame, Towards Another Summer, written while she was in London in 1963. She considered the book to be too personal to share during her lifetime and it was just published this year (2009).

This week's Netflix pick An Angel at my Table, 1989, was originally produced as a three part miniseries for New Zealand television. I had seen this movie years ago, but wanted to watch it again, since my interest in Frame has been renewed with the novel. I enjoyed it even more the second time around.

It is superbly directed by Jane Campion (The Piano) and is based on the autobiography Janet Frame. Starting with her birth in 1924, it covers the first forty years of her life and takes nearly three hours to tell the story. The film is divided into three sections, but I was so intrigued, I had to watch the whole thing at one setting.

Suffering from introversion and depression, Frame was misdiagnosed as schizophrenic and spent eight years in a psychiatric hospital, nearly lobotomized. Frame would later become one of New Zealand's most celebrated poets and novelists, publishing her first books while she was still confined to a mental ward.

This film follows her harrowing and often frightening journey as she struggles to accomplish her life's dream of writing, which she used as a form of survival and self defense. Three talented actors play Frame at different ages throughout the film, with Kerry Fox, pictured above, giving a powerful performance as the young adult Janet, whose skill and creative perseverance would prove to be her salvation.

66 comments:

  1. I remember reading about her quite awhile back. Had a friend who was schizophrenic but never showed signs when we were together......she killed herself a few years later. As did her older brother prior to her.

    Very sad ; (

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  2. I remember being impressed by this movie. All those red-headed children.

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  3. Beautiful. I will have to try to read it, and I'd love to see the movie. I don't know if I can talk Joe into that movie, but I know I'd like it. I might just have to curl up and watch it myself sometime. Sounds great.

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  4. I've read the book and seen the movie. Janet Frame is a great writer.

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  5. An intriguing story-- I wasn't aware of Janet Frame until I saw her mentioned here; thanks for the write-up!

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  6. Willow - I've been thinking of you so much these last couple of days! I've been transcribing all of my father's genealogical notes/records and looking through lots of old photos and asking my parents lots of questions about family stories.

    Your ongoing mention of Janet Frame intrigues me . . . I will definitely add that to my "must learn about" queue.

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  7. Bee, that's such a worthwhile project! Find out all the little details while you can.

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  8. Well, now I know what to watch the next time I have the remote to myself! Read a couple of her novels long, long ago; it is good to be reminded to explore her writing in more depth. Thanks!

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  9. As Bee mentioned, I will certainly do the same, put it in the "must learn about" queue. Janet Frame's story sounds fascinating.

    Willow, as your family has done, I also encourage you to write a book; you really do have a way with words. LBx

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  10. I'd really like to see the film again, and read the book.

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  11. I just watched Passage to India since you've got me on a David Lean kick. Still such a great movie. I forgot how good it was.

    And now, Angel on My Table. Thanks, Willow!

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  12. The book and movie sound so fascinating! I might have to rent this one!

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  13. Another thing I love:
    Willow introducing me to the most wonderful movies. Honestly, I'm so glad I found you.

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  14. Thank you Willow for informing me about Towards Another Summer. I didn't know the book was published this year and I will try to find it. My daughter and I both think that Janet Frame's work is wonderful. We loved the film about her life.Thank you also for your links to previous posts, particularly Reds. My husband and I saw this film in Europe when we were young back-packers overseas, and were quite in awe of it. We were not suprised to learn that it was nominated for so many awards.Wonderful too,l that you featured Jane Campion's work - I think she is so talented.

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  15. Willow,
    Never heard of this book/author. Now I must check it out from the library. And I want to see the movie too. It sounds like a movie I will see alone, without my BF. He's so addicted to movies with guns/fast cars/you know what I mean...
    Thank you for sharing this gem.

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  16. Thank you, Willow, for bringing this writer to my attention-- book and movie both sound intriguing . . .

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  17. This sounds and looks like a book and movie I would enjoy. Thanks for a glimpse with the trailer. I studies mental health when I started in college. I thought I wanted to work with psych patients. I ended up in social work and now the medical field. BTW, I love red hair.

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  18. I'd never heard of Janet Frame, what struggles she dealt with in her lifetime. Wonderful that creative perseverance helped her rise above it all. Thanks for the mention, will add her to my reading list.

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  19. Good evening, Willow. Thanks to my poet friend, D.S. Pearson insisting that I see it, I think Angel at My Table has been in my Netflix queue working its way to the top for about two months. It came today. Right on schedule. I will be curling up with it soon.
    I left a little story for you over at Melrose Musings. Have a great night. Peace be with you.

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  20. A great post Willow, from an ex NZer

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  21. I will look for her book. Thank you for bringing her to our attention.

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  22. Sounds like a great one, I'll look for it in the future. For a minute, I thought it was Cate Blanchette. (she's such a chameleon)

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  23. I'll check Neflix - this sounds fascinating. I loved the Fowl with Pearls - how beautiful she is. Your blog is so lovely.

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  24. I had no idea there was a movie about her! Thank you so much for the lovely post!

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  25. wow. great, intriguing story. thanks for the intro...need to check out the movie.

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  26. The fowl with pearls reminds me of the "Girl with the Pearl Earring." That was a wonderful movie.

    I will have to get TIVO to get this movie. Gosh, you have been keeping my TIVO busy these days.

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  27. I want to read the book that you are reading that just came out. I will mark it in my goodreads. Thank you Willow, you and my Cuban are my teachers.

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  28. Willow, I just popped over for a brush with Kulcha and got it in full measure.

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  29. I loved this movie/movies - will have to get this book you talk about also - always love your picks!

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  30. What a horrific story, being in the psychiatric hospital and misdiagnosed. But maybe it was a means to an end for her writing. Fascinating story.

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  31. This should be another interesting movie.

    I don't know how you pick and choose them but you do and so far from what I have seen they are all interesting. I am just ready to watch the movie Nowhere in Africa which I read about here. LOL

    I assume you just sit around, looking good, and watch movies all day, and bake some sugar cookies and drink tea.

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  32. I was wondering when this post would come out :-)! Yes, I have been expecting this column since noticing that you were reading that book. And knowing that yo love visual arts so much the movie would have been right up your street, wouldn't it? This was the first movie I ever saw by Jane Campion and as I commented on another blog that was focusing on the same subject what impressed me was the shooting, the editing, the acting. The way Jane captured this writer's spirit was fantastic. After 'Nowhere in Africa' (which you recommended some days ago and I have now put in my ILoveFilms list) this is definitely a must-see.

    'The Piano' made Jane more popular but unfortunately, at least for me it relied too heavily on the music (fantastic as it is) and less on ambience. Although it is fair to say that it has the most erotic (in my humble opinion) scene I have ever seen in a period film.

    Many thanks for this beautiful post.

    Greetings from London.

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  33. thank you.
    i am excited to see the movie.

    xx

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  34. That looks like a really great movie to watch. I will have to watch it sometime when I can, as soon as I find it.

    Thank you for sharing.

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  35. Abe, that's funny, because I imagine you, in your cute office cottage, sitting around taking pictures of rabbbit and birds all day! ;^)

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  36. Interesting individual & ever so talented. I read about her recently & will add her story & stories to my "to learn about" list.
    Cheryl

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  37. I must see this film.
    Such a sad and haunting life.
    Have you read the books by Antonia White?
    The first is "Frost in May".
    About a very sensitive girl and mental illness. But wonderfully written.

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  38. I must see this film.
    Such a sad and haunting life.
    Have you read the books by Antonia White?
    The first is "Frost in May".
    About a very sensitive girl and mental illness. But wonderfully written.

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  39. Hi! I listen to books on tape and plan on checking it out as soon as I am done listening to "Life of Pi" which is very good.I get netflix and plan on looking up the movies you suggest Thanks!

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  40. That is an extraordinary story of courage in the face of adversity and the power of creativity to heal.

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  41. I'd never heard of her but it's been so funny, willow, that since reading your blog and hearing about certain individuals for the first time, a little while later I find articles or see something around, about the very same people you have mentioned.

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  42. I don't know the author, but love Jane Campion's work, so I'll add this one to my list.

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  43. I really need to sign up for Netflix, as Bloggers have great movie recommendations...thanks for the tip.

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  44. another good recco .. thanks!

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  45. I might like this movie or book. I love stories that really make us thing of what makes us human. Thanks Willow for bringing it to my attention.

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  46. You just gave me a reason to go to Barnes and Noble!! (not that I actually need a reason....) Thanks!

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  47. i own that movie, in video, and think it fab as is the entire autobiography of which "Angel at my Table" is but one section. I mean that in the book, the title Angel is for one section rather than the entire life story. Thanks for the tip on the new publication.

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  48. ps just watched "Forbidden Games' at your suggestion but realized while watching that i had seen it before.

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  49. The movie is memorable,
    her life sheer hell.
    Made me cry.

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  50. Acornmoon, Netflix is an online movie rental service by mail. It's so convenient!

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  51. She sounds like my kind of writer...so I immediately went online to order a copy for myself, read about her others and found myself buying two...Faces in the Water and Scented Gardens for the Blind...Thanks for directing me to Janet Frame!

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  52. You watch the most interesting movies, dear. I'm so intrigued by your chices. I wish I was half that creative. :)

    Sarah

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  53. it looks very moving and you have to love anything directed by jane campion.

    i'm intrigued by your gorgeous new header. is that a glass with a yellow ring around it> and it looks like you took the photo while something was spinning. i find it quite captivating. i'd better stop trying to figure out what it is and go to bed. it's 12:19 and i have to be up at 5:45 in the am. yikes!!!

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  54. Thank you, Julie! It's a pic I posted some time back of my gg grandmother's oil lamp. I got that neat effect by taking the pic from the inside of the globe!

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  55. I am hooked. Never read the book or saw the movie, but it sounds extraordinaire. Thank you so much!

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  56. I'd love to see the film - I'm a huge fan of Jane Campion's work.

    I wonder if you've read Micheal King's 'Wrestling with the Angel' - his exceptionally good biography of Janet Frame?

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  57. Just added An Angel At My Table to my
    queue -- - we must first finish a three disc BBC series on King Edward
    first.
    Have a lovely Easter!

    Jjjj

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  58. One of our many brilliant New Zealand authors, janet Frame was an intriguing, amazing woman - she also wrote a fabulous childrens book back in the `60s called `Mona Minum and the Smell of the Sun` about a house ant who gets lost. I brought it for my grandaughter and we both loved it.

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  59. ...just added to my Netflix list...

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  60. Brilliant book, author, movie. Haven't seen it in some time. It was a bit depressing that Janet Frame was so misunderstood but Campion's movie tribute was a triumph.

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  61. I've only just found your blog today and I'm so excited. I love your posts and appreciate you sharing so much of yourself. Looking forward to checking in, and I really, really need to read this book and see the films. Many thanks.

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Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)