The Piano (Aus-NZ-France, 1993)

On the edge of civilisation

The Piano was one of the most feted arthouse films of the 1990s and stands up well at the end of the noughties. Beautifully shot, fabulously performed, fantastic direction, gorgeous music, a feminist message plus much to debate about; there’s not much more you can want from a film.

It portrays the plight of middle class women in Victorian times through Ada’s repression (she doesn’t speak); her treatment by men; the ridiculous clothes women wear; Ada’s daughter’s betrayal of her. Two endings are also offered, further fueling debate about what a woman should do in a man’s world. After the feminist advances of the 1970s we seem to be going backwards into a mainstream acceptance of traditional ideas about what constitutes men’s and women’s work (and roles). Bourgeois ideology has absorbed ’70s feminism into the ‘girl power’ of the Spice Girls and Cheryl Cole can happily pose on the UK listing magazine, Radio Times, with her thighs apart (tastefully done of course). So the issues raised by The Piano probably need airing more than they did in ’93.

The representation of the Maoris as ‘uncivilised’ is problematic, mostly because of the dearth of representations of Maoris in cinema as a whole. However, if we consider them as a dramatic device to compare to the Englishmen’s behaviour it is acceptable.

If you haven’t seen the film; you need to.

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One Response

  1. I have seen it and wish I hadn’t. Boring and annoying despite a nice visual sheen.

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