"I A Isabel, You Know?": Antipodean Framing of Jane Campion's 'Portrait of a Lady'
If, as Jacqueline Rose argues, the unconscious dreams of nations have purpose and effect in the world, how can we approach an understanding of ourselves as national subjects–as creatures of these dreams? We trail behind us the traces of nationhood in what we make and do and choose and say, performing the productive historical fictions of origin and attachment to place and nation and shared past. These traces are not straightforward nor necessarily deliberate, nor even especially obedient to geography. How otherwise could Isabel Archer’s story, a ‘Northern’ woman’s story–an appropriate story, certainly, for the genres of heritage cinema and the woman’s film–start to look a bit Antipodean? Jane Campion’s first film not to be set in the Antipodes was her adaptation of Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady (1996). This might on first glance look as though, with the success of The Piano (1993) behind her, established as an auteur, and at last backed by a very substantial budget, Campion was leaving behind her local affiliations and heading into the more prestigious territory of international cinema. The contention of this article is that despite its New York heroine and its English and Italian settings, the film has a distinct Antipodean framing and inflection which turns Campion’s adaptation of James’s story into appropriation. To trace this inflection is to detect a repositioning of the configuration of ‘woman’ and ‘nation’ between novel and film.
Publisher: QUT Creative Industries
Rights Statement: Copyright (c) 2008 Annabel Cooper
Keywords: New Zealand; Jane Campion; film; Henry James; national identity; femininity
Research Type: Journal Article
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