Katherine Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield was born in Wellington on 14 October 1888. She died of tuberculosis at age 34, after writing a series of short stories that would later be seen as a major advance in the medium. This Spotlight collection is based on some of the screen images Mansfield has inspired. A Portrait of Katherine Mansfield provides an overview of her life, while French-shot feature Leave All Fair dramatises the question of how Mansfield's writings were handled after her death. Award-winning TV movie Bliss is a portrait of the artist as a young woman. The Garden Party is inspired by her 1922 story.

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A Portrait of Katherine Mansfield

Television, 1986 (Documentary)

Katherine Mansfield, a rare New Zealand writer to achieve international renown, left for Europe as a 19-year-old. This doco examines her complicated relationships with her family and homeland, her turbulent personal life, her writing (credited with changing the course of the English short story) and her early death in France in 1923, at age 34. Shot in five countries and presented by Catherine Wilkin, it includes excerpts from interviews with her companion, Ida Baker (from 1974) and biographer Claire Tomalin. Ilona Rodgers reads from Mansfield’s writings.

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Bliss: The Beginning of Katherine Mansfield

Television, 2011 (Drama)

Bliss is a portrait of the artist as a young woman. The award-winning telemovie follows Katherine Mansfield from boredom in Edwardian Wellington to liberation and love affairs in London, where she dares to dream of being a writer. Kate Elliott plays Mansfield as a spirited 19-year-old, hungry for experience. Bliss screened to acclaim in TV One's Sunday Theatre slot in August 2011. Listener reviewer Fiona Rae praised director Fiona Samuel's "excellent" script, and for allowing "her Mansfield to be witty, passionate and outspoken without belabouring the status of women in 1908".

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The Garden Party

Television, 1983 (Adaptation, Drama)

Adapted from one of Katherine Mansfield's best known short stories, this restrained culture-clash-in-colonial-Wellington tale follows Laura (Alison Routledge from The Quiet Earth), an idealistic teen preparing for her family's garden party. The raising of marques and arrangement of cream puffs and canna lilies is disrupted by news of a neighbour's accidental death. Laura protests that the party should be cancelled, but her mother disagrees. A visitation at the working man's cottage down the hill and an encounter with the victim’s corpse piques Laura's class consciousness.

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Leave All Fair

Film, 1985 (Drama, Arts/Culture)

This feature film takes as its starting point writer Katherine Mansfield's posthumous instructions to her husband John Middleton Murry (Sir John Gielgud) regarding her work, and his subsequent handling of them. The story shifts between the publication of Mansfield's letters 33 years after her death and memories of Mansfield. Jane Birkin plays both Mansfield and a publisher's mistress who provokes revision of Middleton Murry's decisions. Filmed in France, the Pacific Films-produced, John Reid-directed film was praised by Variety as "an affecting experience."

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Painting in an Empty Land

Short Film, 1981 (Documentary, Arts/Culture)

David Sims' impressionistic National Film Unit short film explores the responses of four NZ painters to a landscape illuminated by a distinctive light, but yet to feel the full impact of human settlement. The award-winning film examines Brent Wong’s floating architectural shapes, Colin McCahon’s religious symbolism, Toss Wollaston’s earth-hued palette and Michael Smither’s hard-edged realism. Their works are taken from safe gallery confines and moved closer to their subject matter, while the words of writers (Katherine Mansfield, Charles Brasch, Bill Pearson) provide another angle.