A Mail Order Bride " The strange thing is I don't think myself silent, that is, because of my piano" (Campion 9). This beloved instrument is central to the plot and plays a major role in the movie The Piano. It is a symbolic instrument that Campion uses to tell a complex tale... The film is a story of shyness, repression, and loneliness, of a woman who will not speak and a man who cannot listen, and of a willful little girl who causes mischief. Ada's verbal silence is a complicated issue in the film and contributes to the overall confusion surrounding her gender identity. Since the age of six, Ada voluntarily chose to be mute and expresses herself through her play of her piano.
Her piano symbolized not only her body but also more importantly her soul. In the mid-1800's, Ada arrives on the stormy shores of New Zealand to meet her prearranged husband, Stewart. Ada was referred to as the mail-order bride on the summation of the Blockbuster videocassette. In addition to her luggage filled with dishes and clothes, she brings her eight-year old daughter, and her piano.
Despite Ada's wordless pleadings, Stewart refuses to bring her piano home and it is left on the beach. As Ada, Stewart, and the rest of the crew leave the beach, Ada contemplates the piano sitting on the sand near the water. This scene shows the underlying feelings of Ada; she is unhappy that her prize possession is being left behind. Stewart believes in his ownership of Ada and he demonstrates this by negating her own claim to property.
Baines, a local man with Maori ways, makes a deal with Stewart in which he will trade land for music lessons from Ada. Baines offers Ada a deal to get the instrument back, and she is unprepared for the price she must ultimately pay. He recognizes the value that the piano has with Ada, which Stewart fails to do. The first act of compassion from Baines towards Ada is when he has the piano tuned. This event symbolizes that he truly cares what Ada feels and respects her as a women and person. Stewart does not comprehend that affection must be earned through trust, respect, and love.
Baines realizes this and he gives the piano back to her saying, "I want you to care for me" (The Piano). One can feel the sense of frustration with Baines during the play scene. Stewart asks Baines "are you doing well with your lessons " and "what do you play" (The Piano). Baines replies, "nothing just yet" (The Piano). This complements the feelings that Baines has toward Ada; however, the feeling is not mutual "just yet." For Ada, her inner feelings are revealed after the act of kindness, in which he returns the piano back to her, that she comes to realize her attachment to Baines. However, her feelings are truly portrayed as she risks giving Baines a key to the piano.
The key to the piano symbolizes that she is giving a piece of herself, perhaps her heart, to the man who gives her the respect and love that she wants and needs. Stewart becomes frustrated when Ada refuses to give him the sexual attention he so desires. When he discovers Ada and Baines's sexual relationship, he tries to rape Ada and then boards the windows and doors of the house with Ada and Flora inside, BURC 3 hoping to imprison them under his control. He performs a horrific act by cutting off part of Ada's finger in retaliation for her breaking her promise to not have contact again with Baines. Stewart resorts to violence because he cannot think of any other way to control his wife.
His violent act fails at making Ada his slave and he no longer sees himself as the master in control of the situation. During the finale of the movie, the piano ceases to symbolize Ada's soul but represents more her misery. It was the center of tragic life with Stewart. On the boat when Ada is leaving with Baines and Flora, Ada orders the piano to be thrown overboard. As the piano is thrown over, Ada consciously decides to attempt to end her misery. Then she unexpectedly discovers a desire to live: "What a death! What a chance! What a surprise! My will has chosen life! ?" (Campion 121).
The movie, in my opinion, should have ended at the completion of that scene. Instead, the next scenes show Ada and Baines going on with their lives in addition to her learning to speak again. If Ada had committed suicide, it would be admitting defeat. Ada is a strong willed women in which defeat was not an option.
In conclusion, The Piano leaves viewers with a sense of hopelessness and dissatisfaction over Ada's available choices and eventual identity. The film helps in challenging and reconstructing societal norms about gender, sex and power. It emphasizes the need for acknowledgment of an individual, thus destroying the morality of the nineteenth century, which dictated sexual repression and ownership. Love as an integral element of sexual relations, with the definition of love conveying mutual respect as well as desire is presented as a major theme in the film. Burc 4 Sexual relations as a requirement such as arranged marriage are shown to be not only irrationally unjust but also potentially tragic. Ebert refers to The Piano as, "one of those rare movies, that is not just about a story, or some characters, but about a whole universe of feeling-of how people can be shut off from each other, lonely, and afraid, about how help can come from unexpected sources, and about how you " ll never know if you never speak." Burc 5 Works Cited Campion, Jane.
The Piano. New York: Hyperion, 1993. The Piano. Dir.
Jane Campion. Perf. Holly Hunter, Harvey Keita l, Sam Neill. Miramax, 1993. Ebert, Roger. "The Piano." Chicago Sun-Times on the Web 19 Nov.
1993. web reviews/1993/11/890247. html.