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Gale article summaries

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 3 months ago
The Piano Critical Essay Abstracts
This article explores, through a range of critics’ comments and individual analysis, the ‘double discursive’ nature of Jane Campion’s The Piano: it points out a kind of resistance in the film to both the conventional Hollywood style of ‘woman’s’ films “made by men to entertain women” and the more feminist ‘women’s’ films which are supposedly created to speak on behalf or to the female gender as a whole. Through this analysis, we can come to see The Piano’s seeming defiance of usual feminist or woman’s film stereotypes by its creation for the singular purpose of satisfying its’ director. We are also able to observe the incredible violence of disagreement over this film between various critics.
 “The Piano is a gorgeously short, utterly repellent film about a woman trapped between two rapists: a sleazy blackmailing rapist and a violent possessive rapist.” –Carolyn Gage (quoted within article)
“Jane Campion, in The Piano, is a director who employs double discursivity in an attempt to grapple with dominant film practise and thematize the dilemma of totalizing categories.”
“Campion’s critical discourse of dominant cinema thus begins with that most feminine of dominant filmic forms rather than in opposition to it.”
This essay was mostly a summary of decisions made to do with the set of ‘The Piano.’
“We didn’t want to slavishly recreate about some imagined reality, which is so often seen in periodic films.” – McAlpine,
 Much of the set was made (including parts of the forest): “The film environment is deceptively persuasive.” – McAlpine.
They discussed how during those times the mud was hopeless for the dresses that the women had to wear. Ada arrives for an arranged marriage “and gets drawn into a horrible well of mud surrounding the home.” – McAlpine.
It is “as if she were being sucked down into the heart of this land through the mud.” – McAlpine.
To further being caught, Ada “becomes caught in the Sucklejack as if in a web.” – McAlpine.
The beach used at the beginning “is one of the most treacherous beaches in the Southern hemisphere; it provided the metaphor of anger and isolation.” – McAlpine.
This refers to Ada’s anger as she is mute and “channels self-expression through her piano playing.” – McAlpine.
She also uses sign language and had a notebook around her neck.
The essay commented on the different sets of Baines’ and Stewart’s houses with there being no nails in Baines’ hut. “By embracing his surroundings rather than attempting to tame them, Baines prevails.” – John Calhoun.
‘A path of great courage.’
       Contrast between Stewart and Baines’ house.
Stewart’s is set in a dark setting, with muddy tree stumps, while Baines’ home is bathed in the green light of the forest.
       Romantic impulse on which Ada lives is considered dangerous. Both courageous and compulsive.
       The relationship between Stewart and Ada is one of power – first Ada is vulnerable, (both as a female and a wife), but then Ada comes to empower him sexually.
       Ada develops as a character who is initially seen as an object by both men. Stewart orders her to ‘make sacrifices’, and Baines forces her to earn back the piano, which, he later realizes, ‘made you into a whore.’ However, later on in the film Ada gains a level of control over both men. Baines, who is lovestricken/emotionally vulnerable, and Stewart, who becomes emotionally isolated and therefore left vulnerable in face of Ada’s open sexuality.
       This film opposes Victorian era ideals. ie. The power that Ada has over the men, and her struggle to form a family.
‘…highly charged triangle in order to explore the way erotic impulses and the unpredictable emotions that can rise through their enactment might have been experienced in another country, another landspace.’
‘Stewart is a man whose shell is cracked and disintegrated by the power of his feelings for Ada, leaving him exposed, like a man who has lost all his skin.’
‘While the focus is squarely on the female protagonist, the film does not alienate the male spectator in its treatment of the male characters. They are complex, with their own emotional, social, psychological problems, but we see these characters revealed from the woman’s point of view.’ -      Helena Sharp.
Mary M. Dalton and Kirsten James Fatzinger
Two raging feminists who suck.
Ada’s “automutism”
“when voice becomes the women’s metaphor of agency, silence becomes its antithesis.”
“silence, when chosen rather than imposed, may be an act of defiance and resistance.”
Women were’nrt public in the nineteenth century unless they were bad. Ada: defiant.
The filmmaker should approach the film without bias. The Piano is complex because it is not just Campion’s views. Her views are “implicit messages.”
“Ada elects not to speak, rather to speak and not be heard.”
Lerner: “women are the majority, yet we a re structures into social instutions as though we were a minority.”
Male and female spheres in society. The two overlap like a zen diagram, but only the women can see both spheres, but the males are stuck in their crescent which does not overlap.
The Piano. Richard Alleva. Commonweal
Richard Alleva argues that The Piano is not the ‘satisfying Gothic love story that Campion declared she was trying to make”. Alleva describes The Piano as ‘Far from being a masterpiece’, and says it has a ‘basic lack of curiosity about what makes human beings tick’. Alleva is frustrated by the fact that the audience learns nothing from Ada’s silence and provides a contrasting point of view to the generally positive reviews that The Piano receives.
“silence is dramatic garnish. Not substance”
“Campion has turned the usually irrepressible Holly Hunter into something monochromatically dour, even forbidding, a white mask of ungracious chastity”
“By the time our heroine rushes into Baines’ arms she seems guided more by the dictates of plot than by passion”
“there are sights in The Piano that wow us, but few of them guide us into the hearts of her characters”
By Lydia and Rachel 
Are films dangerous? From a Maori’s perspective
  • Maori depicted as ‘unreasoning and impulsive sexual creatures’.
  • The Piano fails to display correct intelligence levels and culture.
  • ‘If there are films that are about you and they are untrue, that is very dangerous’
  • The film in general contributes to negative belief systems and continuing stereotypes.
  • ‘The depiction of Maori people in the film leaves no stereotyped stone unturned’
  • Happ-go-lucky native or sexualised Maori woman.
  • ‘Naïve, simpleminded, lacked reason, acted impulsively and spoke only in terms of sexual innuendo, with a particular obsession with male genitalia’.
  • ‘Revealing of the dualism which serve to validate the colonisers belief in their own superiority’
  • Maori people remain as a backdrop against which to contrast the ‘civilization’ of the white people
  • The sexual acts of Maori in the film are seen as crude, as opposed to the ‘eroticism’ of Ada and Baines
  • The colonisers’ views or Maori are maintained until the present day
  • Women cook and are sex servants, mean are ‘irrational, naiver, simpleminded and warlike’.


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