Sweetie

Jane Campion, Australia, 1989, 100 minutes

Jane Campion's feature debut focuses on the lives of a dysfunctional family set against a backdrop of ordinary suburbia. Kay livens up an otherwise dull existence with an unhealthy interest in superstition. She pursues and wins the heart of Louis on the basis of a tea-leaf prediction., and they consequently move in together; sharing the same "spiritual plane".

The spell is broken when Kay tears out Louis' newly planted tree; relations start to rot as Kay changes overnight to an emotional and sexual invalid. Enter Sweetie, Kay's mentally ill sister. Arriving. out of the blue one night Sweetie suffers the deluded conviction that with Bob, her producer-cum-lover, she will "walk through doors" into the world of entertainment. She exults in her new-found freedom away from the family nest, whilst Kay refuses to entertain the notion of letting her stay, convinced that she is a "dark spirit" and thus the scene is set for conflict between two sibling opposites. Into this chaotic spectacle walks Dad, suffering woefully with the separation from his frustated wife who has gone into the bush to find herself amongst the jackaroos.

Sweetie is notable for the use of bizarre wide-angle shots in enclosed spaces, combined with lurid set colours - these contribute to the angst and tension within the family unit. The contrast of incongruous people, situations and events with ostensibly mundane environment hints at something more corrupt and sinister underlying the suburban dream.

Review by Kelly Steele/Cordelia Stephens
Taken from EUFS Programme 1994-95