Peter Mullan, as crime lord Matt Mitcham, and Elizabeth
Moss, as Detective Robin Givens, star in the psychological
thriller Top of the Lake, which was filmed in the
Queenstown area over four months last winter. Photo from
Fans of world-class drama will think all their birthdays
have come at once when they watch Top of the Lake
Queenstown viewers will get a special thrill, for this is the
Wakatipu, but not as we normally experience it.
The Queenstown Times was invited this week to be one
of the first in New Zealand to see the multimillion-dollar,
transtasman television series, which was Academy
Award-winning Jane Campion's first project in her homeland
since The Piano 20 years ago.
As if to bring art and life full circle, Top of the
Lake reunites Campion with Holly Hunter, who won an Oscar
for her role in The Piano.
Hunter seemed to have channelled Campion in her performance
as women's refuge guru ''G.J.'' with the use of a long
grey-haired wig, piercing stares and enigmatic non sequiturs.
''How are your knees,'' G.J. asks already troubled Detective
Robin Givens (Elizabeth Moss).
''You're going to come down hard.''
In a shade of Prime Suspect, determined Givens is brought in
to help Detective Al Parker (David Wenham, Public Enemies,
The Lord of The Rings) and the laid back boys' club known
as ''Southern Lakes police'' when a 12-year-old girl
(impressive newcomer Jacqueline Joe) is found five months
pregnant, then vanishes.
American critics were quick to pigeon-hole Top of the
Lake with Twin Peaks, but that was misleading.
This series is firmly rooted in the reality of now, but how
powerful to see the mountains and lakes of the Wakatipu used
ominously, rather than the usual picture-postcard manner.
The wintry wilderness was cast as an all-seeing silent
witness to the tiny intrusions of humanity, a keeper of
ancient myths and secrets, and conjured the dread so artfully
created across the Tasman in Walkabout and Picnic at Hanging
The refuge, a ring of shipping containers, was unmistakably
shot at Moke Lake.
Other recognisable Wakatipu landmarks in the first two
episodes included the Glenorchy township and hotel, the
Glenorchy-Paradise Rd Bridge, the Glenorchy-Queenstown Rd,
Marine Pde, lower Beach St, inside Avanti restaurant, the
Post Office Precinct and the entrance to Queenstown Primary
School, while Routeburn, Greenstone and Lake Sylvan were
There were flashes of earthy Antipodean humour laced
throughout. Tip of the grubby baseball cap to Robyn Malcolm
as ''Anita from Syracuse'', who became a disciple of G. J.'s
to get over a rather unique relationship.
Top of the Lake earned rave reviews at its premieres
at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals earlier this year.
New Zealanders can watch it when it begins on UKTV on March
The series is set to run on BBC 2 during the northern
hemisphere summer and, if the success of Scandinavian crime
dramas in the UK is an indication, austerity Britain will be
in the mood for something as dark, gritty and compelling as