The Piano (1993)
Unusually I was able to get to the discussion group for this film - just the last few minutes, but enough to find out that I was in a minority of abound 40% in not enjoying The Piano. For me, symbolism is a useful tool when used sparingly to portray something that otherwise would be missed; it is like a jam sandwich: one is great, two are ok, but after that the marginal utility diminishes fast. However the short film we watched before: Night Train to Kazan by Max Robinson won universal praise. One of just a handful of short films we have screened that invoked spontaneous applause at the end. Eugene.
This film does not receive my approbation. It is contradictory wanting us at times to suspend belief whilst demanding we face the brutal realism of the dysfunctional lives of the main characters. A bleak, cruel story of control opposed to Ada's strength of character. I didn't even take comfort in, or believe in, the ending, wondering how long the happiness would last. Technically the film is really well made and the acting excellent. We were able to read every thought and emotion in Ada's eyes and facial expressions as if she were speaking her part, and the little girl's acting is remarkable. The short film, on the other hand, is an incredible heart stopping and warming story of triumph over a different kind of cruel oppression, far more remarkable than fiction. The story tells of three generations of talented Russian musicians to the point where the fourth generation is in it's early infancy. We also saw a video on a quite different theme by Max Robinson, who had filmed the short, about his school in Ethiopia showing shots of the happy children and of the volunteers - including our own Sheila Nash - who bring many and varied skills to the school. The discussion group all enjoyed the short but were divided over The Piano. One man said he could not make head or tail of it and had been watching the clock. Interestingly another member's sympathies had lain with Ada's husband, saying that in the context of the period his behaviour towards her was not unusual. Four of us didn't like the film, but others thought it a triumph and were devotees of Jane Campion, the director. One man found the film romantic. It was a good and lively discussion. Sonia