A Character Far Larger Than The Story

I’ve been watching some TV series’ lately – too many, in fact – and they’ve been pretty good (True Detective, The Fall, The Killing, Top of the Lake), good for murder mysteries, that is (which I am sorely sick and tired of), good for sex crimes stories, that is (and is there no other story these days? really? come on, people, THIMK!), and it seems almost a kind of excuse for indulging – even wallowing – in these sort of stories – that “it’s all about the characters”. It’s “character development” (not masturbatory fantasies, truly – who me?), and there have been some definite characters, that’s for certain. No denying that. Rust Cohle in True Detective is a heck of a character. Stella Gibson in The Fall, okay. Some nice role reversal of gender domination there.

Top of the Lake was almost no fair. The setting is so gorgeous – filmed in and around Queenstown, New Zealand, perhaps the most astoundingly gorgeous landscapes I’ve ever been lucky enough to see in person – but most of the characters are just slimy white trash. The contrast of the ugliness of those people and the beauty of the setting is something to see, for sure. There is one character in that show, though, who stands out so much it’s almost startling. The women’s retreat cult leader G.J., played by Holly Hunter, is so much larger than the story. In an interview the actress is asked, more or less, was this character plucked from another movie entirely? Because it sure seems like it. It seems like there should be an entire movie about her, not just a handful of scenes sprinkled across the half a dozen episodes. Every time she appears, it’s like lightning.

She has some great lines and delivers them perfectly, in a stillness beyond life, a stillness that matches the mountains and the lake – really the only character who “fits” that environment.

“So, you are on your knees? Good. Now die to yourself. To your idea of yourself. Everything you think you are, you are not. What’s left? Find out.”

“All you hear are your own crazy thoughts Like a river of shit, on and on. See your thoughts for what they are. Stop your helping. Stop your planning. Give up! There’s no way out. Not for others, not for you.”

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