The Piano The analysis is broken down into models, where is one looking on denotative / connotative levels, while another is concerned with the dialectical dynamic in the story, eliciting the opposition on a culturally moral point of view. A third model is a simplistic, although effective, progression line examining the development of Ada and her status. The first division is concerned with four visual signs that recur throughout the story, and therefore should be paid special attention to. Denotation Connotation Piano Voice Wings Innocence Axe Domination Forest Corruption The Piano can be seen as an indexical sign for Ada's emotions. The way characters react to her way of playing suggests she communicates through the instrument. Aunt Morag makes the comment to Nessie (in the forest) that Ada's playing is as a mood that creeps under one's skin.
Baines stops his advances on Ada when she breaks into a waltz by Chopin (at the fourth lesson). Her piano playing seems to be the only realm where she can be truly free, and speak her mind so to say, in an otherwise oppressive society, which in that sense makes the piano replace her muteness and becomes her voice. The Angelic Wings figures for the first time during the preparation of the church play. Flora wears them more or less constantly after that. As a symbolic sign the wings connote innocence and goodness, however, the shadow cast by Reverend Septimus (during the preparations) with wings on and a fake axe implies there is a darker attachment to the wings as well.
Since Flora starts wearing the wings she sides more and more with Stewart, and in the end betrays Ada twice (e. g. when washing the trunks, and delivering the piano key to Stewart instead). Literally the wings become dirty after Flora has been running around in the forest with them on. As stated below the forest stands for a corrupt culture and the innocence and goodness become tainted in contact with it. The last to be seen of the wings are when they are being washed clean in a river before the departure, suggesting all the jealousy, and hate Flora had towards her mother (e.
g. when she is not allowed in to the cabin when Ada plays, and when Ada tells her to go home to practice and that she can't come with her to Baines') is now washed away, and she has found her way back to what is good - her love for her mother. The Axe is a symbolic sign for the patriarchal culture, which Stewart also is the embodiment of. It is only men who use an axe (even the fake one held by Reverend Septimus during the preparations), and its function is that of domination. With it nature is tamed, and Stewart, just as the male character in the church play, also uses the axe to subdue his woman (e. g.
Stewart severs Ada's finger). The Forest is often visually portrayed as dense with twisted trunks creating almost an impenetrable wall (00: 14: 26, 01: 07: 40, 01: 36: 21), and in relation to Ada it becomes a visual symbol for the imprisonment she experience in the culture of which Stewart is a representative. The last shot of the forest support this idea as well; at the point of their departure the forest is still dense, although sunbeams are finding their way through the crowns of the trees (01: 42: 55) creating an exit. The forest is a symbolic sign for a culture with corrupt values (e. g. treats women as objects, status through purchasing and possession of land).
The following chart divides the two male protagonists into an opposing binary system in order to elicit what they represent in the story. Denotation Stewart Baines Country England Scotland House Muddy Green Appearance Victorian New Zealand ish Ada Wife Lover Connotation Stewart Baines Country Supreme Subject House Dead Alive Appearance Rigid Adapted Ada Possession Equal Country Judging by the accents of Stewart and Baines, it is fairly easy to come to the conclusion that Stewart is English and Baines is Scottish. The opposition becomes quite obvious if one looks at the past England and Scotland share between each other. It has seldom been a very amicable relationship between the two. It is commonly understood that England has been the supreme state over a subjected Scotland, which manifests in the relation between Stewart and Baines, also their characters seem defined by their origins as well. Stewart is overtly polite and sociable while Baines is stubborn and closed off at social occasions (e.
g. tea in the missionary house, and the church before the play starts. ) - stereotypical traits of English and Scottish people. The master - subject relationship between the two can be found in various situations throughout the story. Baines acts as an interpreter when Stewart does business with the Maoris, he helps Stewart to chop up wood, and he complies when Stewart tells him to leave the island.
Stewart, on the other hand, is never to be seen helping Baines in any respect. By placing Stewart and Baines in two opposing countries a larger conflict transcends the relationship of the characters, and in a natural way pits them against each other. Stewart or Baines might not hate the other in the beginning of the story; however, due to history and culture they are divided and pre-set in an antagonistic stance. House The houses of Stewart and Baines represent the two different living conditions they have created and chosen to live in.
As indexical visual signs the two houses and their surroundings also seem to reveal the nature of the two characters. When Stewart's house is shown for the first time it's raining heavily, the soil is nothing but mud, and the house itself is meticulously built resembling a large wooden box. The land in the close vicinity of the house has been scorched and dead, burnt trees surround it, which ironically creates all the mud since there is no vegetation to bind it down anymore when it rains. It looks like nature has suffocated and nothing living exists anymore around Stewart's house.
He has conquered the land and altered it according to his will. The connotations attached to the house are of a depressive and destructive sort, and to draw a parallel to folklore or Scandinavian Sagas a similar realm would have belonged to an evil and oppressive tyrant, as Knight Cato in Lindgren's 'Mio min Mio' or the dragon in 'Beowulf'. Baines house, in that case, is in stark contrast to that of Stewart's. The house might be somewhat smaller, although the nature around it flourishes. The whole house seems organic with leaf roof and cracks in the walls letting in sunbeams creating a serene and relaxed atmosphere.
The calm black horse outside the house, looking at Ada and Flora on their first visit to Baines, further reinforces the notion that Baines house is peaceful. The difference between the houses of Baines and Stewart, on a connotative level, is that of heaven and hell. Appearance Both Baines and Stewart are being visually introduced simultaneously on the beach when they are to pick up Ada and Flora. On a denotative level Stewart is wearing a Victorian outfit consisting of a black top hat, black coat, white shirt, black bow tie, and vest and trousers in a green and dark green tartan with the pattern running horizontal and vertical. Stewart also has his hair neatly combed to the side and sideburns. Baines wears somewhat different clothes; a brown jacket with vanilla white sleeves, a large straw hat in the back of his neck, dark blue trousers, and a dark green and blue tartan vest with yellow stripes accentuating the tartan pattern that runs in diagonals.
Baines hair is uncombed and wild. Baines is also clean-shaven, and has no sideburns, although he has a few Maori tattoos on his nose and on his forehead. The connotations are drawn to a cultural level where Stewart represents a rigid mono culture (i. e. the British Empire) that has no intention to learn or understand a different culture or way of thinking. Once again Baines is the opposite of Stewart.
Baines is able to speak Maori and has also been accepted into the Maori culture (e. g. the Maori tattoos). His character has adapted to his environment and belongs to two different cultures that seemingly coexist without any conflict thus creating a new, mixed culture.
In Stewart's case there is a clear conflict with the natives who, in sheer disrespect, both steal and break into his property (e. g. when he tries to pay them with buttons after they carried the piano, and when they break into his house to play the piano. ) Ada Right from the beginning Stewart makes clear that Ada is not what he expected her to be (e. g. his comment on her height on the beach).
The absence of a matrimonial ceremony suggests it is not a love marriage, and the photograph taken of the bride and groom in the rain seems just as constructed as their relationship. By showing no intention to collect the piano from the beach, and then swap it for land, without consulting her, he reveals his disregard of her opinions and feelings as an individual. The fact that Stewart, prior to the beach, never actually met Ada, creates the sense of her being an item among all the other boxes scattered out on the beach - and Stewart acts as if he had bought them all via mail order. His possessive trait, as mentioned above regarding the house and the subdued nature, demands Ada to comply with his will. The way he commands Ada to make sacrifices for his purpose (e. g.
her piano for more land), tries to force himself upon her, locks her up when he finds out about her affair with Baines, and how he severs her finger when she does not conform, point towards Stewart's attitude that he has the right to claim total submission of her persona and reduce her into one single object: his wife. Baines, on the other hand, listens to Ada when she plays the piano (e. g. on the beach), and after the session on the beach Baines proposes a swap of his 80 acres of land for the piano to Stewart.
By regarding the piano as an indexical sign for Ada's true personality it would mean that Baines truly sees Ada as an individual. Even though Baines bought the piano from Stewart, he does not see it as his possession. Baines seems to understand that whatever he is doing to the piano he is doing to Ada, the piano is an extension of her persona. This would explain why Baines takes care of the piano with such affection (e. g. having it tuned without being asked, wiping the piano clean with his own clothes).
What is striking is how Baines also treats Ada with respect. Rather than using the piano as a tool of extortion to get what he wants, he bargains with her, giving her a certain control of the situation (e. g. Ada strikes the deal one lesson for every black key, instead of all keys that he aimed at). Baines even hands the piano back to Ada (not to Stewart as Stewart thought, being afraid of having to return the 80 acres of land) when he feels the situation is becoming dangerous for both of them. Baines comment on Ada running the risk of becoming a whore and he wretched, if their deal continues, also suggests that Baines feels the bargain corrupts them, making their actions devious.
Baines is passionately in love with her and wants Ada to genuinely care for him, and the bargain hinders that. R'esum'e The breakdown above brings out the dynamics in the story, and by placing it in a binary chart (see below) it clarifies the moral standpoint conveyed in the film. It also clarifies the two choices Ada is confronted with, and provides us with a deeper understanding of her motivation to risk everything by engaging in a close relationship with Baines. What is interesting is the fact that in the beginning of the film Ada is a conventional passive female character, and it is not until Baines breaks her cage (when he literally rips her clothes off) she becomes an active participant in the story and she takes on the whole driving force of the narrative in her quest for freedom and independence (referred to as her strong will). In the process she risks losing her piano, Baines, and foremost her daughter, something that can be seen in Flora's shifting loyalty from Ada to Stewart. The progression from passive to active female character has a price.
Stewart, as a representative for old values, punishes Ada by robbing her of the one thing that helped her endure the oppression - her ability to play piano. However, by gaining freedom the acute importance of the piano as the communicator of her persona is rendered unnecessary. Ada's character progression Ada McGrath Passive Active Punished Free Binary Model Bad Good Old Values New Values Stewart Baines Morag & Nessie Ada & Flora Inherent Rights Respect Mono Culture Mixed Culture Oppressive Free Patriarchy Independency The way 'The Piano' presents two different cultural values, and having Ada to decide whether to conform or struggle for freedom and respect as an individual, is in many respects quite similar to how 'The English Patient' presents the same choice of either conformity or freedom. However, Katharine and Hana as characters are not offered a choice, the two different cultural conditions they exist in display instead the consequences a female persona will face if she thirsts for independence, and halfway either conform or follow the struggle through.
The English Patient The two female characters in 'The English Patient' were set up in contrast to each other due to the non-linear narrative timeline, which made it interesting to study these two characters on an opposing scale. As in the previous analysis two types of structural models will be used, binary and progressive; the focus is on action of characters, surroundings, and interaction with male characters. Denotative Katharine Hana Environment Desert Forest Country English Canadian Skills Upper Class Lower Class Clothes Female Male / Female Men Almashy Kip Connotative Katharine Hana Environment Death Life Country Old Values New Values Skills Social Survival Clothes Fashionable Functional Men Possessive Equal Environment Throughout the story Katharine is in either the desert or in Cairo; however, the majority of her narrative exposure is in the desert, an environment with strong connotations of extreme danger which, without the right knowledge, will lead to certain death. Katharine is presented as possessing no knowledge at all on how to survive in the desert or the Egyptian culture since Almashy constantly informs her on these subjects (e. g. Almashy tells her after the sandstorm where there is water to be found, Almashy informs Katharine she insulted the Egyptians when she did not bargain at the market place).
Katharine's vulnerability can also be found in the company of the British National Geographic Expedition (a. k. a. the International Sand Club) where she is the only female. A visual example is in the desert during the game 'Spinning the bottle' when Katharine tells the male entourage the tale of Candaules. She is standing up in front of the group of sitting men, exposed to their gaze, while she tells the tale of a woman who outwits her husband when he has another man gazing at her when she is naked due to a bet that she is the most beautiful woman alive (bearing in mind the previous two men in the game sang songs that had the whole company participating - Katharine's performance is watched as if she was on a theatre stage).
The desert is also the environment in which she both dies and her body is disposed. The desert could be read as a visual symbol for a patriarchy in which a feminine self-created identity, represented by Katharine, perishes. The character Hana is presented in Italy, and in contrast to the Egyptian desert it has a flourishing nature with green vegetation, which implies good living conditions. The Italian nature has less sense of vulnerability, and rather, creates a serene and safe environment full of life. Hana is a nurse, and it is a profession that generally focuses on protecting and saving life (despite the fact a nurse cut off Caravaggio's thumbs). Danger does exist in this environment, although it is implemented by man due to war and not because of the traits of the nature, even so it still has the connotation of a sanctuary (e.
g. the monastery) where Hana, on her own accord, creates a safe haven for Almashy, Caravaggio and Kip both physically and emotionally. Hana, in contrast to Katharine, is fully capable of taking care of herself and is also regarded so by other men (e. g.
she creates a vegetable garden, fixes the stairs with books, and how she demands a gun and a lot of morphine - and gets it - are all examples of this). Country Katharine is an English Rose: beautiful, sophisticated, and traditional (e. g. the entire International Sand Club move from the 'male-only' long bar to the lounge where Katharine is sitting, her comments on Almashy's monograph, and she conforms to the patriarchy 'male-only' policy exemplified in the long bar). The connotation of England representing traditional and old values becomes valid since it is has Canada on an opposing scale. In the beginning of the 1930's the British Empire was at its peak, which is the era of Katharine; Canada sprung out of the British Empire, and attained autonomy as late as 1931.
It is a young country with a young history that has created a new culture with new values; otherwise there would not be any reason striving for independency. In the story Hana is presented in mid 1940. The country she represents has been self-governed for a decade, and traits of independence can be found in the narrative active character Hana (e. g. She decides to stay at the monastery, she demands a gun and morphine from her superior officer, she demands to be let in when Kip is mourning in the barn, she bicycles to Kip when he is vulnerable by the bomb, and by bringing the olive oil she makes the first advances towards an intimate relationship with Kip - when Katharine makes the same gesture, giving her drawings to Almashy, it has fatal consequences in the end of the story).
Skills As mentioned above, Katharine is, in many respects, highly cultivated (e. g. the way she outwits Almashy when talking about his monograph and makes the rest of the members of the International Sand Club laugh); she is a socialite who reads a lot, and she knows how to dance, dress, and behave in an appropriate manner. Katharine is part of a high society where survival skills have been replaced with social graces.
She is an ornament in the company of men because she is lovely to look at and charming to talk to, other than that she is regarded as useless (e. g. Almashy rejects her drawings since they took photographs instead - which are more accurate according to him, Geoffrey jokes that Katharine is constantly taking a bath, Almashy tells her to use the spade next to her rather than digging up the trapped men after the sand storm with her hands, Katharine even says the moment after the accident "Let me help" - there is no reply as if no one even listened). In this case Hana is the direct opposite. She even tells Almashy, after they have just moved into the monastery, that she does not know anything, as a reply to Almashy's question whether she knows about Herodotus.
Even though Hana reads slowly, and Almashy has to correct her pronunciation on Candaules, she is not badly educated (e. g. she can read and play the piano); she has a strong work ethic and seems to have gained respect by being very good at what she does - being a nurse (e. g. despite the fact that Almashy is dying she still gives him the best treatment she can, her superior officer tries to reason with her rather than giving her an order when she wants to stay at the monastery).
As mentioned earlier, Hana is capable of taking care of herself, which makes her a survivalist. Katharine, on the other hand, cannot even sew, while Hana knows how to cook, plant a garden, wash, fix stair cases, make and put up a sun-block for Almashy, and sew. This knowledge suggests Hana is of lower class than Katharine if contrasted; however, following the line of old vs. new values it could also be seen as necessary skills for a woman who does not want to be dependent on anyone. Clothes The garments of Katharine and Hana could be studied on two levels: Fashionable vs. Functional and Female vs.
Male. In Katharine's case it is obvious that every garment she wears are designed for females and the main purpose of her clothes are to be fashionable (i. e. agreeable to look at), and she shifts between two sorts of kits: Trousers and a jacket or dresses. Katharine's clothes cement her objectified identity as a woman by having to wear clothes that are not suitable for action, which makes passivity seem more natural.
Hana, on the contrary, uses clothes in a more functional way, and has a more interesting connotation attached to her cross-dressing behaviour. The first image of Hana is on the train where she wears a typical female nurse uniform (blue shirt with white collar that has rounded edges, white apron, and a white kerchief), in the next scene (at the army camp) she wears a standard military uniform. This radical shift from female to male clothing (based on the premise that combat uniforms still are regarded to have a male connotation) suggests Hana has both female and male privileges (i. e.
being femininely attractive (e. g. the relationship with Kip) and have male activity (e. g. making the first advances on Kip, staying at the monastery) ), which later converge in a cross-dress outfit consisting of a blue dress with red roses and a military uniform jacket; although the reason for this cross-dressing is logically motivated as out of function and practicality. Men Katharine involves her self with two men (her husband Geoffrey and Count Almashy) who, just as she, are products of their culture and class.
Both Geoffrey and Almashy have one trait in common: possessiveness. As a woman, Katharine's class and culture defines her as an ornament (i. e. an object), which logically makes the men, of the same culture, into owners of that object. Examples of this are when Almashy follows Katharine at the market (both before and after their encounter, something which Katharine finds is a bit predatory); Almashy and Katharine are in bed for the second time, he claims a part of her body as one would claim land; Almashy, drunk at the dinner, confronts Katharine and demands that what belongs to him has to be returned (i.
e. Katharine). In the end Katharine becomes paralysed after the crash and literally becomes a passive object, who is then completely dependent on Almashy. Geoffrey's possessive mannerism is rather latent (e. g. he does not ask the International Sand Club to join his wife in the lounge, and he asks Almashy in the desert when he has to leave for Cairo: "Why are you so afraid of a woman?" (A remark open for interpretation, although in this case it is read as if there is nothing to be afraid of since she is only a woman) ), however, in the end of the story Geoffrey tries to kill them all three by crashing his plane, with Katharine in it, on to Almashy - as if the motivation behind his action was that if he cannot have Katharine no one, and definitely not Alsmalsy, is going to either.
Hana, too, has two men in the story; one is only mentioned in the beginning and with the news that he is dead. Kip, in comparison to Geoffrey and Almashy, has a completely different attitude towards women (e. g. the shells with burning oil leading to the barn, giving Hana the option to follow or not; On Hana's question whether Kip would go look for her if she one day would not come around, he replies that he would try not to expect her), this suggests that Kip regards Hana with respect since he recognises she has a will of her own, and he does not aggressively pursues her; he also confides his feelings to her concerning something else than about their relationship (e. g. after Hardy's death).
Another man who respects Hana's independence is also, as pointed out earlier, her superior officer. R'esum'e In a binary model the moral standpoint in the story becomes more evident. If life and death are the symbols for what is good and bad in this story, the model will clearly make a distinction between new and old values. The relationship between Hana and Kip is not only the physical embodiment of independent individuals, as described earlier, it also renders a positive connotation to mixed culture since Hana and Kip derive from Western European and Sikh contexts (in comparison with Katharine and Almashy who both come from Western European cultures - England and Hungary).
Their professions are also in stark contrast to what Katharine and Almashy do for a living; Hana and Kip both work to save lives (i. e. Nurse and Mine Sweeper) and have strong work ethics (e. g. Kip goes to the bomb, Hana refuses to give Almashy a cigarette) while Katharine is a full-time wife, and Almashy draws map that later in the story bring death and destruction to the people of Tobruk. Binary Model Bad Good Old Values New Values Katharine Hana Almashy Kip Passive Active Mono Culture Mixed Culture Patriarchy Independence No Work Work Ethic Death Life Progressive Model Katharine / Hana Passive Active Punished Active Free When studying the progression of the female character a suggestion, to regard Hana and Katharine as one female identity, has to be made.
This notion to merge these two opposing characters becomes more valid when arguing that the focus is on the development (i. e. the progression) of the female identity as a concept. In the actual timeline of the narration Hana's story follows Katharine's, and breaking down their individual progressions it seems as they do follow each other in the development as well.
Additionally both characters cherish independency, i. e. to follow their own will, making them similar as types of characters, although Katharine conforms and Hana does not. In the beginning of the story Katharine is a passive female character, when she breaks into activity (e. g. She gives her drawings to Almashy; She goes to Almashy's hotel room) she is punished by a lonely death in the desert; Hana's story starts with her being punished (e.
g. the death of her boyfriend, and the death of her friend Jan), she still possesses narrative activity (e. g. She decides to stay in the monastery; She bicycles to find Kip, on request she decides to give Almashy an overdose of morphine), and is rewarded when Kip survives the bomb, the declaration of peace, and she is travelling to Florins where Kip is being stationed. A strong visual sign of independent female identity is presented in the end with the Italian woman Gioia at the wheel of a truck, with Hana on the back of it together with a young girl (i.
e. the coming generation of women); when the truck is driving down the road the cypresses are initially blocking the sun like prison bars to eventually stop so the sun shines freely on Hana's face. It is inevitable to wonder why Katharine has to die while Hana lives; one reason, that would explain both Ada's severed finger and Katharine's death, is that infidelity is still regarded as a negative and bad action on the whole no matter how it is justified. This is yet another argument supporting the idea that Katharine and Hana can be studied as one; Ada's finger is Katharine's death - it is a punishment for the same wrongdoing, which makes Hana the Phoenix that rises out of the ashes of Katharine.
In 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon's hu Lien is punished for the opposite reason, as she takes the notion of fidelity to an extreme since she does not want to dishonour her dead fianc " ee by getting involved in a relationship with his best friend, Li Mu Bai. 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon' does address the same subject matter as the previous two films, although the approach is somewhat different, giving the opportunity to study the subject from an altered angle. Bibliography 1. Cook, P. The Cinema Book.
London: The British Film Institute, 1996. 2. L'evi-Strauss, C. Structural Anthropology. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd, 1972. 3.
Sturrock, J. Structuralism and Since. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990. 4.
Sar up, M. An Introductory Guide to Post-Structuralism and Postmodernism - 2 nd Edition. London: Harvester Wheat sheaf, 1993. 5. Leach, E. Claude L'evi-Strauss.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. 6. Stam, Burgoyne, Flitter man-Lewis. New Vocabulary in Film Semiotics.
London: T J International Ltd, 1992. 7. Wright, W. Six guns and Society.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975. 8. [on line] web > Accessed 12 Dec 2002] Filmography The Piano. (dir. Jane Campion, 1993, CITY 2000 / Jan Chapman Production) The English Patient.
(dir. Anthony Ming hella, 1996, Miramax Films) Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. (dir. Ang Lee, 2000, Colombia Pictures Film Production Asia).