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February 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Chris White <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 22 Feb 1994 15:52:18 PST
Research Information Systems
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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I've been reading the deluge of recent postings on *The Piano*, and
I thought it was time I joined the fray.  :-)
Otto Kitsinger wrote:
> Doesn't anyone see a problem with a film being made in this day
> and age that says trading sex for vital stolen property isn't
> sexual abuse but a deeply passionate, romantic affair?  Or I the
> only only one who sees it that way?
> In "The Little Mermaid" Ariel trades her voice for an opportunity
> to go after a goal (the guy).  But in "The Piano" Hunter's
> character has her voice stolen, and she is basically whoring for
> piano keys.  Didn't that bother anyone?
Otto, I feel you've badly misinterpreted the director's intentions
here.  Since any criticism is based on interpretation, what follows
is mine...
Baines and Aida are put in a difficult situation from the beginning.
Baines recognizes Aida's pain, caused by her separation from the
piano and the uncaring attitude of her husband.  Baines' decision to
take her to the piano establishes that he is a much different type
of man than Stewart (?), a fact Aida must surely take notice of.
His feelings for Aida intensify, and he has the piano moved so that
Aida will have access to it.  By the time she arrives at his cabin,
the piano itself begins to take a back seat to the fact that these
two people have become quite attracted to each other.
I felt that both Baines and Aida found themselves incapable of
moving forward in a relationship that both wanted to pursue.
Despite the attraction, neither one feels comfortable with it, for
all the obvious reasons, and the issue must be resolved indirectly.
So, what we have is a dilemma with no apparent solution.  How can
Baines approach Aida?  What should he say or do?  How can Aida let
herself become a party to this situation, while maintaining the
degree of pride she requires?
Baines' idea of bargaining sex (not *unwanted* or *one-sided* sex,
mind you) for the piano keys is the excuse that Aida is looking for.
Under the pretense of doing anything to regain her piano, she is
able to let go completely, with a man that she knows cares more for
her than her husband ever could.  My point is that Aida is hardly
"whoring for piano keys", Otto.  She is giving in to one of the most
intense of all human emotions -- the desire to become intimate with
someone you care for, and who cares for you -- and Baines comes up
with a perfect excuse that allows her to do so.  By this point, Aida
cares less about the piano, she just wants to be with this man that
looks at her with such emotional yearning and such sexual hunger.
Without being too contentious here (as I've been *asked* not to be),
I think that Jane Campion sets all of this up very well, and anyone
who doesn't see the romance, the lust, that has built up between
these two characters must have missed the point completely.  This is
sad, because I feel that it's quite possibly the most intense moment
in the entire film, and one to be savored, not ridiculed.
- Chris White