The Piano Essay

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To what extent do you agree that production techniques successfully convey an important message about society in a film you have studied.

In The Piano, New Zealand director, Jane Campion comments on the isolation and restriction placed on people in Victorian Colonial society. The techniques of symbolism and lighting she uses are vitally important to successfully portray her important message.

James Berardinelli said that in The Piano “symbolism abounds and most of it is clear enough for even the casual viewer to grasp”. Campion relies on a range of symbols like the piano to fully develop her message. Ada McGrath, the protagonist, has not spoken since the age of six but she believes, “I don’t think myself silent, that is, because of my piano”. The sound of the piano becomes Ada’s character and her mood. She expresses her emotions in unspoken musical dialogue and the piano is a priceless possession to her but Alistair Stewart, her proxy husband, sells her piano. Without understanding the importance of the piano Stewart takes away Ada’s “voice” and her freedom. On the other hand, Baines, Ada’s secret lover, gives Ada her piano back and her voice. Baines frees Ada from her entrapment and gives back her freedom. The piano that symbolizes Ada’s emotions is used to show how Stewart puts her into isolation, while Baines frees her from it. Another symbol that is crucial to the development of the film is the axe. The axe is a symbol of the dominant figure of Stewart. Stewart is rarely seen without his axe outside his house; as Brian McDonnel states, “he cuts down trees, he wounds the land, all around his house the terrain is hacked down and bare”. It reveals to the audience his colonial attitude as the aggressor and how he tames the land like the way he wants to control everything else. Stewart is an outcast of the society. He wears impractical clothing, does not trust the Maori, and lives by himself in a European style house. He cannot adapt to the community, so he...
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