Jane Campion1981-1990AustraliaDramaShort Film

Jane Campion – Passionless Moments (1983)

Review (Geraldine Bloustien, ‘Jane Campion: memory, motif and music’. Continuum)
Passionless Moments, although possibly one of Campion’s most whimsical pieces, has all
the hallmarks of her later films. It is concerned with the insignificant, unsolicited
moments of daydreaming when one is caught almost unawares. The film consists of ten
self-contained vignettes of the sudden thoughts of ten very different individuals.
Classical Hollywood cinema concerns itself with the heightened moments of passion of
individuals with whom we identify in some way because of their bravery, humour, innocence,
heroic qualities and so on. In traditional feature films and documentaries we are usually
introduced to the characters’ backgrounds, motives and problems. However, in Passionless
Moments the characters serve only to illustrate some quirky aspect of human nature and

The film is narrated by a detached BBC documentary-styled male voice-over – the voice of
authority – which tells the viewers about each one minute segment of the film as though it
were a highly significant study of life. The technique actually serves a similar function
to the diagram and subheading in Peel. We laugh because we recognise the way we too can
be totally self-absorbed in a sudden idea or thought which for that moment assumes great
significance for us. There is, for example, the child Lindsay Albridge who, on his way
home from an errand, imagines his parcel of beans to be really a bomb that will explode in
twenty seconds if he doesn’t get it home on time. Although each of the characters is
referred to by name, all we learn of him is this one banal moment (out of undoubtedly
many) in his life and which for him at that moment makes him stop his current activity,
assuming great significance for that short span of time. Although we are shown ten very
different individuals it is the similarity of the day-dreaming that we are asked to
consider – as we were with the extreme close-ups of the faces at the end of Peel.

The humour, the way the moments are exaggerated, are underscored by the visual treatment.
A fish-eye lens is used to distort distances as in “Ibrahim makes sense of it”; Ibrahim
contemplates the strangeness of his perception – the fact that from one side of his body
he can see the word ‘Sex’ and from the other side he can see the word ‘Thing’, the words
being on the ends of a single-line aphorism on a painting behind him. As he ponders, the
fan in the room rotates on its axis in the extreme foreground, occupying almost the whole
space of the frame. The movement of the fan repeats the rotating movement that Ibrahim
used at the beginning of the sequence as he practised his yoga. Now he is a still shadowy
figure in the background of the frame. It is as though the animate Ibrahim has become
immobile while the inanimate object, the fan, whirs with apparent life and force – a
humorous visual connection for the viewer between ‘sex’ and ‘thing’.

In several places in Passionless Moments Campion makes use of cut-away shots of fantasy
as in the sudden vision of a room full of scattered denim jeans in “Clear Up Sleepy Jeans”,
in Julie Fry’s vision of a board room where executives ponder the dimensions of paper to
fit on the back of tissue boxes, Angela’s recollection of Rufus (her uncle’s pet pig) and
Ed Tarbrey’s memories of his school football team. In all these segments the fantasy
sequence heightens the humour and our sense of the ridiculous. Animation, which will be
used again to great effect in Campion’s later film Two Friends, is employed here in “There
Are No Woodpeckers in Australia”. The non-diegetic electronic music that was used to
emphasise the sense of wonder and insight in Peel in this film serves to highlight the
gentle satire: Gavin Metcalf who is attempting ‘to put his life in order’ by listening to
the sound of his own ear-drum sees the floating particles of lint and remembers that his
mother said these were fairies.

137MB | 11m 55s | 640×480 | avi



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button