Playp[ain]

The Piano / Released 1993 / Reviewed 2011 / 5 Rabbits

Ada and her Piano haunt you utterly—the same way our sexual selves haunt us by day and through the night, never letting go.  Ada is a Scottish immigrant to New Zealand sometime in the vicinity of Heart of Darkness, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights.  She has a young daughter and a piano.  The daughter interprets for her; and so does the piano.  Ada hasn’t spoken a word since she was 6 years old.

Her new Husband vow he will not mind her silence, half believing that she is faking the affliction and will have no reason to continue in the face of harsh settlement conditions.  He tells her father in Scotland that he can send Ada and her daughter and he will make them into a family, free of charge.  No dowry is mentioned.

When Ada arrives, she discovered her husband to be a cold man full of all the high expectation and ironic knack for communicating with English fluency and accomplishing very little shared meaning in the exercise.  Unheeding of her insistence that the piano must come with her—even if it means leaving her clothes and kitchenware—he leaves it alone on the beach, a heavy burden he won’t take the trouble to bear.

But the Whaler sees.  When the Husband leaves on business for a few days, Ada convinces the lonely man to guide her and her daughter back to the beach.  Unwilling at first, he finally acquiesces and in the listening, he is lost.  As she plays and plays and plays through the afternoon and evening, late on toward night, he feels a tender longing fill him, body and soul.  Being very much silent himself, he says nothing, but he barters with the Husband for the piano upon his return.

Thereupon ensues a love triangle–or perhaps, quadrangle, for the Piano is involved as much as any person is.  Through the remainder of the tale, Ada, the Husband, the Whaler, the Piano, and the daughter grapevine their way through all the triumvirate trappings of the human self.

There are infinite opportunities for commentary, and I plan on unfolding them throughout the next few days and weeks in a series of posts.  If I have piqued your interest, view the film on Netflix DVD (I doubt a local rental store will carry it in stock).  Then, come contemplate with me the deep humanity, the thought vs. action, sexuality vs. gender performance, the feminine vs. the masculine, the independent vs. the mainstream, the object vs. the agent (Soul)…

The Piano (1993, Jane Campion)
The Piano (1993, Jane Campion)

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