About The Production
The idea for HOLY SMOKE first struck Jane Campion mid-air on a long flight back from India: A young Australian beauty travels to India in search of the exotic. When her family hears that she is following a Guru, they imagine the worst. They hire a top American expert to lure her back to sanity. The young explorer and spiritual pro find themselves in the middle of nowhere in a place where rules don't apply and anything can happen.
This was the skeleton of a story that would allow Jane to continue to explore some of the themes resonant in all her films; spiritual struggle, sexual politics and unconventional intimacies. The film also takes an irreverent, sometimes comic and often startling look at the phenomenon of seduction between a powerful older man and a young woman.
Sitting at a table with Miramax's co-chairman Harvey Weinstein and colleagues, having just garnered Best Original Screenplay at the '94 Oscars, Jane pitched her idea for a modern feature HOLY SMOKE along the lines of her first feature film SWEETIE. Harvey Weinstein's commitment was immediate. Jane found herself in the highly unusual situation of having the film fully financed, before writing had even begun.
Within months Jane had invited her sister, fellow writer and filmmaker Anna Campion (LOADED, 1994) to collaborate on the screenplay and then the novel (Miramax Books, Hyperium Publishing, New York, 1999).
'I've always collaborated with people whose work I've admired, but who above all think in ways I don't. Anna, for instance, though I know her very well, is still a completely original creature to me.
'When we first began, we used to sit in coffee bars and argue, almost like the two main characters Ruth and
P.J.. Our arguments in the first draft were the usual unprovable business...Is there a God, is there not a God? Whether God is merely a projection of human need. The right of one to believe. We were working out the parameters of these inexhaustible arguments about the meaning of life and how the different characters might express them.
P.J., in particular, has really thought these arguments through, which is
extremely threatening for Ruth whose spiritual experience is emotional, not intellectual.'
In scripting the battle that rages between Ruth and P.J. in their isolated desert hut, Jane and Anna underscored
P.J.'s deconstruction of Ruth's belief system, with the politics of sex, gender and power. If
P.J. intended his and Ruth's to be a Socratic dialogue, the Campion sisters were intent on dragging the -in many ways - unreconstructed seventies man, into the nineties. The young, formidably articulate, at times savage, Ruth was to be P.J.'s avenging angel.
'Despite what many would say is an enormous revolution within one generation, there's still a lot of misogyny out there. There's still a large proportion of people trying to hold onto the idea of women being a backdrop for society. and some nervousness from women as a result, a sense of 'we have to be careful all the time because otherwise we're perceived as threatening. That's something we wanted to address. We wanted Ruth to be bold and not to care for P.J.'s good opinion.'
And Jane Campion:
'Ruth is beautiful and intelligent - she's also young. That was our real point of entry for the character. I believe youth tends to make people - it made me anyway - very dogmatic, and very brave. Young people keep us honest, they're so intolerant of anything hypocritical. You hear it from kids all the time, the one thing they can't tolerate is hypocrisy, which also gives them problems with the contradictory or paradoxical nature of life; anything that has a kind of overlapping or complex quality to it.'
'Ruth doesn't want to simply replicate the received patterns of her parents' fairly conventional lives. She wants to thi
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