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Feminism in Film - The Piano

            Susan Dunn in The place that writes states that feminist theory 'recognizes patriarchy as a specifically cultural and historical context with power relations that are not universal but nonetheless a real condition and that these do not exist separately from aesthetics and poetics' (Dunn, 1998). By using this theory as a means of critically analyzing Jane Campion's film "The Piano" we can examine and deconstruct power relations between men and women whilst challenging the representations of and revaluing women's experiences.
             The Piano, set in 18th century colonial New Zealand, shows the patriarchal system of life which Ada tries to break free from. Ada is presented by Campion as a powerful figure, standing in opposition to the patriarchal oppression of women. She has chosen to be mute with her silence symbolizing oppression where women's verbal desires and emotions are violated, abused and unheard. This silence speaks a powerful message of revolt against the patriarchy and becomes a potent metaphor for women not being heard. As Foucault states 'Discourses are not once and for all subservient to power or raised up against it, any more than silences are' (Foucalt, 1990, 100-01). Ada instead chooses to 'speak' through music. Her piano empowers her, allowing free expression and 'breaking the symbolic order of the patriarchy and abandoning their language to preserve her subjectivity through her own language (the piano)' (Li, 2014, 82). Ada's power is also seen through her determination of getting back her piano when it is first left behind, demanding to be taken back to the beach. In this scene, Baines follows Ada by following her footsteps and metaphorically walking in her shoes. Later on the piano is traded to Baines where he offers sexual exchanges for return of the piano to which Ada asserts her control by consistently bargaining with him. .
             Campion also portrays Ada's powerful character through her free sexuality.

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