Top Of The Lake

When I first saw this lurking without fanfare in the TV pages & on iPlayer I was already too worn out by ineffective attempts to reproduce the success of Forbrydelsen (the original Danish version of The Killing) including of course the subsequent Danish sequels. It seems these days you can almost hear the cynical, dead claws of media executives desperately trying to rip the heart out of anything good & clone it in a million ways with only tiny changes to differentiate the bastard spawn from a good original idea (er..yes I am drunk)

However a lonely weekend and the moronic slant of weekend TV drove me yet again to iPlayer. Sadly as usual all the comedy & science based factual programs were repeats. So somewhat reluctantly I decided to try out “Top Of The Lake”.

The final episode is not due to be shown until next week, so there’s still the chance it could follow the format of much of Stephen Kings work ie. brilliantly written but with a hopelessly anti-climatic ending. I sincerely hope not though because the first 5 hours have been excellent.

When I was a teenager I managed to finagle a crappy black & white TV into my bedroom. I had to rely on a wire hoop aerial and so everything I watched was severely tainted by the big bang. However it was just about sufficient to get some cheap thrills from O.T.T and late night French Film seasons. Of course in pursuit of those cheap thrills I also ended up watching an Australian Film season or two.

There is an atmosphere about Australian cinema that is hard to describe. It persists even if they refrain from adding a spooky  didgeridoo based soundtrack. There always seems to be a pause, a quiet moment of introspection surrounding almost every line delivered.  The scripting was often almost banal and yet as a consequence highlighted the humanity of the subject characters. The background music, if used at all, was understated and not used as a very blunt tool to force an intended emotion upon the viewer. Of course this was roughly 32 years ago & Australian cinema has probably changed a lot since then.

Top Of The Lake reminds me of those secretive late night pleasures, watching Aussie movies but in colour & without the noise of the universe impeding my view.

Top Of The Lake is a multi-national production co-produced by the BBC (UK), UKTV (AU/NZ) & the Sundance Channel (US), but the influence of antipodean cinema is present throughout. There is a sense of space in the dialogue that resonates with the vast landscapes in which it occurs. There is unabashed nudity without the salacious spin common in US/UK drama. It doesn’t try to be sexy but rather concentrates on the emotions of the characters and not every belligerent encounter is an overly dramatic shouting match full of clichés.

Elisabeth Moss who plays the lead character Detective Robin Griffin convincingly portrays a character both stoic & confident in her field of expertise and yet vulnerable because of the horrific experiences of her past. In fact the entire cast (of unfamiliar faces) are excellent.

The story deals with several unpalatable subjects and is more horrifying than the more visually graphic dramas I am used to because they have invested so much in the emotional aspects of the characters, not in the in the formula US/Uk drama style, with everything signposted by the soundtrack, but in that much under-used technique called acting.

I don’t know how it will end. There is every possibility that they could throw away all that excellent work in a fit of marketing insanity, I’ll have to wait until next week though to see if they have done a “Stephen King”

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