This New Zealand-born director makes long, beautiful and impressive films, but the characters in them are hard to get close to.
She had originally studied anthropology at university, but then went to art college in Australia, whee she studied surrealist painting and began her film career. There are surrealist-influenced images in most of Campion's subsequent work, which attracted attention from the beginning.
Her first short film, Pel, won the Palme d'Or in its section at the Cannes Film Festival. Campion continued making award-winning shorts for the next seven years until venturing into features with Sweetie. As with many woman filmmakers, Campion's central characters are almost always women. None are more disturbing than the heroine of Sweetue, played by Campion favourite Genevieve Lemon. About a demanding young woman and her relationship with her submissive father, it provides, like all Campion films, little light and shade for those who like humour to leaven their drama.
An Angel at My Table is often even more depressing, although finally uplifting in its true story of a novelist who spent eight years in psychiatric hospitals after being misdiagnosed a schizophrenic.
Campion's first international film, The Piano, immediately brought her wider acclaim, together with a best screenplay Oscar. An unusual erotic drama with some striking visual moments, the film took Campion back to her native New Zealand and also won an Oscar for its star, Aerican Holly Hunter, as a strong-willed but mute Scottish widow who travels across the world in the 19th century to fulfill what turns out to be a loveless arranged marriage to a local landowner. New Zealand-born Anna Paquin also won an Oscar as Hunter's daughter.
'I have enjyed writing characters,' says Campion, 'who don't have a 20th-century sensibility about sex. They have nothing to prepare themselves for its strength and power.' This was certainly true of her next protagonist, the heiress played by Nicole Kidman in Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady, although the film itself as less successful.
There are moments of tedium in most of Campion's films, but it's only here that they overwhelm the drama, as Campion keeps the emotions of the story too cramped and confined. No doubt, though, her characters will continue to suffer to some effect.
Oscar nominee for The Piano.