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A Film Diary

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Finished: 10 August

Ordinarily I don’t record watches of TV shows here, but I’ll make an exception for Top Of The Lake, the New Zealand-set police-procedural starring Elisabeth Moss, David Wenham, Peter Mullan, Tom Wright  and Holly Hunter. It was, after all, screened in its entirety on the big screen at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals a few years back (indeed the follow up, Top Of The Lake: China Girl, made its debut at Cannes earlier this year). Clearly its creators – principal among whom is the New Zealand director Jane Campion – wish for it to be considered as a piece of work that straddles the worlds of film and television, something emphasised further by the BBC’s decision to release it as a box set on its iPlayer service, inviting a viewing in a single session for those with enough time on their hands (or, perhaps more realistically, anything from three to six sessions).

Anyway, the first series is one of the better TV dramas I have seen in recent years. The story centres around the disappearance of a pregnant 12-year-old girl of mixed race descent, and while much of the story is concerned with the search and its aftermath, Top Of The Lake‘s themes go much further, incorporating sexual abuse, the commonality of relationships that exist between men and women at home, in the workplace and elsewhere, the treatment of teenagers by adults and much more (all shot with, of course, a spectacular backdrop of South Island scenery). I’d have liked to have seen it stretched to 10 or 12 episodes, and unfortunately a couple of deaths of characters in the local community are weirdly forgotten about quickly and conveniently, but overall it has a range of well-drawn characters, some excellent performances (Moss and Mullan in particular) and a pervasive and persuasive darkness that I liked very much. (****)

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