Jane Campion is famous for one film: The Piano. This film transcended its New Zealand setting with the power of the camera and great performances and went on to win several Oscars, one of which set the record for the youngest person winning. It is a great film that tells the story of a woman who could never had told her own. But since then, Ms. Campion has been condemned to the art film sector, deemed too radical and then not radical enough in turn. And yet she chugs away still telling stories about women who are strong in their own ways. She is one of the best directors working today and I hope she has another hit again so more women can discover her.
In the Cut was directed by Ms. Campion and stars Meg Ryan in a role nobody had ever seen her in before. Maybe that is why when doing some research on this film after I had seen it, it was so universally panned at least at the time of its release (and even by my hero Roger Ebert). Nobody could see through the startling revelation that Meg Ryan plays a character that is not particularly innocent or loved by everyone on the screen. She plays an English teacher who is closed off. She resists any affection except by her sister and avoids the men who stalk her. At first just being at the wrong place at the wrong time, she gets pulled into a serial killer plot by a not so pleasant Mark Ruffalo. What follows is a true depiction of female sexuality and the play between the two characters as they develop feelings for each other.
Ms. Campion plays with the close-ups and the saturation to make this film feel dream like. This makes the awful events in the film seem sort of detached from the rest of the plot. You see Mark Ruffalo’s character’s reaction when he sees the severed hand come out of the washer, and it makes you snap back to the reality of the situation both him and Meg Ryan’s character are in. The reveal at the end of the movie was did kind of come out of left field, but I at least wished he would get his inevitable fate for the things he says at several points of the film. I don’t want to give away the identity of the killer, but none of those events should have happened. The officers knew that he was one of those people who took advantage of women. It annoys me that this thing happens not only in this fictional world, but also in the real world every day. In fact it does more than annoy me, it angers me deeply.
Jane Campion’s film is worth seeing for several different reasons, one only being for Meg Ryan’s performance. It takes the typical serial killer thriller genre and puts a feminist spin on it. The cinematography is beautiful. The performances by everyone, even Jennifer Jason Leigh who is barely in the film are great. But the best reason to see the film is to see the victim save herself. She needs no man to save her. That is a theme I can really get behind.