With the pedigree of the cast and crew, and the stunning locations, my hopes were high for this locally set TV series. And it seems, given the very positive critical and audience response to its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this month, that Campion and co may have delivered (in a first for the festival, a television miniseries was screened in its entirety, in a marathon eight-hour session). The Hollywood Reporter said: "Even pristine New Zealand is infected with moral rot in Jane Campion’s superior six-hour miniseries" (read the very good lengthy review here). Cinemablend was "in awe" of the series, saying it delivered "staggering suspense":
From its first scene, what sets this production apart is the gradual pace at which the story unfolds. Notice I didn't say slow. That might suggest Campion and Davis's results are boring, but instead watching Top of the Lake feels like reading a great mystery novel where rather than a strong visual introduction that succinctly clues audiences into a particular character's stereotype, we're offered just a bit of information here and there, forced to stitch together what we discover. This is how the town and its residents are knit together. And its creation is masterfully done, offering a new puzzling bit of info just before the credits roll for a given episode. It also thematically fits this world, where everyone has something to hide.
More and more over the past few years I've thought that much of the pinnacle of screen storytelling has been happening in television (particularly cable television) rather than film, with many terrific, multi-layered, television series where characters, plots, and themes can unfold in a twisting and unexpected fashion over time. I'm looking forward to seeing whether "Top of the Lake" continues to bolster this trend. The early signs are very good.
From what I can gather, "Top of the Lake" will screen on the Sundance Channel in the US, and on UKTV in New Zealand, kicking off in the next month or two in each case. Depending on your location, you can view a trailer for the series here.