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Weird Lullaby: Jane Campion's "The Piano"

Feona Attwood
Feminist Review
No. 58, International Voices (Spring, 1998), pp. 85-101
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1395681
Page Count: 17
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Weird Lullaby: Jane Campion's "The Piano"
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Abstract

This article examines the construction of woman's voice, gaze and desire in Jane Campion's Oscar-winning film The Piano, 1993, with particular reference to the film's central character, Ada, and to the traditional female figures which her character suggests - siren, mermaid, Little Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard's wife. It investigates the ways in which The Piano interrogates and disturbs traditional patriarchal narratives, ways of speaking and seeing, and patriarchal constructions of bodily pleasure and desire; revealing these as partial, hard of hearing, short sighted and incapable of pleasure. It argues that while the film succeeds in this interrogation, it goes further in its attempt to envisage forms of speech, sight and pleasure which do not conform to traditional models based on the notion of rigid oppositions between self and other, masculine and feminine, active and passive. Instead, by focusing on mutual pleasure, sensuality, communication and the ability to be moved, it sets in motion 'other' ways of experiencing and understanding women's voices, looks, desires. It concludes that The Piano articulates a demand for an encounter with men, in which women are neither marginalized as 'the feminine' nor re-incorporated into a patriarchal order; and imagines the possibility of both autonomy and connection, power and pleasure.

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