They lived with the nanny until her death for another five years. Jane and Anna refused her funeral. They tried over the years to convince their parents of what it was like for them, but they never believed.
Campion describes her parents being loving, but fundamentally absent from her childhood. The Campions were a significant couple in New Zealand theater. Shortly before Jane was born, they founded the first professional touring troupe in New Zealand, The New Zealand Players. Edith was a great actress in New Zealand. Richard Campion was a filmmaker. She was awarded the M.B.E. in 1959. Her theatrical work was recognized. But it was a troubled household — Richard was engaged in a series of affairs, and Edith suffered from depression, which led her to multiple suicide attempts and several stays in institutions throughout her adult life.
Edith appeared in an early film of Campion’s, “An Angel at My Table.” (More than two decades later, Campion’s daughter, Alice, had a lead role in “Top of the Lake.”) Campion remembers her mother as delicate, sensitive and witty. She began writing when her children were young. She eventually published a collection of short stories as well as a novella. She encouraged Campion’s creative pursuits, but she was also moody and remote. When Campion was little and visited friends’ houses, she would interview the mothers, trying to get a sense of their schedules, their habits, what they did. What was it like to be a mother?
Campion told me about the time her mother took Campion out of school to see a dentist. “We didn’t do very many things by ourselves together, so I was very excited to show her where I hung my coat.” After the dentist, they had a picnic in a park, and Campion could sense that her mother’s mind was elsewhere. “I tried to do all sorts of amazing things — somersaults and handstands, to entertain her, to get her attention — but she still looked off into the distance. It was probably depression. I remember she had an egg on her lap, and it just … rolled off.”
There was a time when Campion was so bewildered and persuaded by her mother’s despair that she told her she would understand if she wanted to die. “It really scared me to be close to her complete lack of hope,” she told an interviewer in 1995. She studied structural anthropology at university. This is where she studies the way humans use myth and social structure to resolve fundamental oppositions like light and darkness, life and death, and light and shadow.
Campion said that feeling vulnerable is harder for her than for most people: “I associate it with fear.”
“You’re so averse to feeling vulnerable,” I said, “but tenderness is the core of your work!”
“Well, if it didn’t have much meaning for me, it wouldn’t matter,” she said. “It’s got power. My attention is what decides: What should I pay attention in the world? Is it possible to fake this? Can you really fake that attention? Attention is love.”
Source: NY Times