By Nevin Ulusoy

A piano near the ocean. The piano that the immense waves reach, it is just there, it looks as if it is a part of nature, it hums the song of the ocean and shore for those who know the depths that are thought to be silent only. It is yearning for the fingers that understand, will understand it, the cold, dark night penetrating it. The waves are never still. The owner of the fingers also yearns, the fingers that open the heart of the piano that has come from so far away to this alien place, waits on days dyed with the colour of the night, at nights that has lost their glamour. She has turned the kitchen table into a toy piano but it is useless, her piano is without her, in the bosom of the waves, a solution, there must be a solution, yes, only her piano understands her, how can there be such an isolated life?

When I had the opportunity to watch “The Piano” again, the film I saw at the cinema more than twenty years ago, I was shaken a lot again, I felt as if I was watching it for the first time. Actually most of the scenes were on my mind, I have never forgotten them to tell the truth. It is one of my favourite films, I have thought it has wanted to be mentioned, there have been references to it in the books, articles I have read. I think one does not change much, if she/he is influenced by the same film in the same way years later, maybe the same film or book seems more stunning. It is nice that some things do not change but  it seems a deep life experience depends on the permanence of taste, of course being open to change and innovation, away from conservatism. Though I believe “The Piano” would be at the top of the list of unforgettable or must-be-watched films for most art lovers.

“The Piano” that makes us travel to oceans inside us, invites us to think about our lives again, sets light to decide on our map, asks us to listen to our passion, inspires to send away everything that is suffocating us in this world full of undelightful things daring to be alone.

The film addresses us from the nineteenth century, Victorian Era that was dominated by conservatism and strict moral rules. A woman who does not talk, is mute, her inner voice shows us the way, she has never talked since she was six, she communicates through sign language, she has a notebook as well. Words are unnecessary when feelings are shared, we think our heroine Ada has chosen silence deliberately. One thinks of the native family in John Steinbeck’s “Pearl”, their sharing of happiness with no need to talk, their hearing the same song in their minds. 

People usually say unnecessary things, it is unnecessary to talk to such people anyway. Ada has a little daughter as well whose father we cannot learn much about. Ada goes to New Zealand for a marriage her father has arranged and her most important belonging is her dear piano. There is enormous rain, they wait for a long time to be taken on the shore. All along the film the places covered with rain, mud are with us. It is as if women who refuse to be in harmony with nature go around with their puffy and suffocating dresses, live in an uncompromising way, not like to be the natives who walk around comfortably. The Maoris are like part of nature, they are one with their environment.

It seems proper dressing reflects the smoothness, cleanliness inside or tries to cover secret characteristic problems. If you look good,nothing is much important maybe. For the natives dressing is a natural need reflecting what they have inside without spoiling the oneness with nature, just like in everything they do. 

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The tension starts when Ada and her husband encounter each other for the first time. The man looks at her discontentedly, Ada’s photograph in one hand, says she is very small rudely. Her being mute has not disturbed him, the best woman is a silent one, is not a woman who never talks many men’s dream? Ada’s asking for her piano again and again starts the first uneasiness, he cannot understand why a woman makes pressure so much for a musical instrument. How can that be, a woman wishing a piano to be carried without attaching importance to her clothes and kitchen utensils? How will the natives carry it? They would carry it of course, but he would have to pay lots of money. If he thinks it is unnecessary, the woman who is also his property must deem that huge thing unnecessary as well. The piano is left on the shore, near the waves. She draws the keys of the piano on the kitchen table, plays her dream piano, her daughter sings, Ada joins her silently. Her silence cannot stop the lava boiling, she is not silent actually, she speaks with her eyes, tells with her hands, never afraid of showing her anger. The women at home sense her difference and they do not like it at all, the passion spreading from her disturbs them.  

She needs to see her piano, touch it, play it, she is breathless that way, she needs it as she needs the sunlight. She wants to go to the seaside and play it, but she does not know the way. She finds the white man she saw at the head of the natives who carried the things. He, George Baines is just like the natives and he can speak their language. She knows that he can take her there, she insists. At the seashore Baines sees the passion in the woman, notices the love of her playing, there is burning fire behind the icy face, an indescribable life passion, a sea of emotions from the hands to the eyes, heart and every atom of her. The piano is there, all alone, the waves surround it, just like the waves surround inside the woman. 

Her piano and, every other thing just vanishes later. It is being together for life and death. The waves stretch inside Baines as well and he tries to get closer to Ada by buying the piano. Alistair, Ada’s husband, he is only interested in land, is not it true that they have come here among these wild people for the sake of land? But, of course, the main reason is to make these wild creatures the loved servants of God, but having properties, accumulating must not be forgotten, either. Just like the man in Tolstoy’s story “Does A Human Need Lots of Land?”, a person must get as much land as possible. The land that one person can surround until the sunset cannot be enough for a person, with the price of killing oneself, not feeling the light of universe, one must get more and more land. There is no holiness here, one must get the holy land the natives do not grow anything. This goes on until the person meets the beloved land, it is only two metres of earth that he/she looks for. The piano is Baines’ in return for some land and also Ada as his piano instructor. Alistair cannot believe that he could buy that land so easily. Baines gives land the importance the natives give to it and he is taken as a native, how can land, property be compared to this woman, this wave of rainbow? They are taken into the waves slowly, but soon there is a storm. The axe, as a means of taking nature and women under control, determines the power of the storm. It cuts the trees when it is needed or a part of a woman’s body in the hands of a man. It can happen in real life or a bad drama. But can this tool that is used to make things or people bring down, shape stubborn and believing souls? 

The director of “The Piano”, Jane Campion, is the first female director who has been awarded Palme d’Or in Cannes with this film. The scenario also belongs to her. Holly Hunter who acts as Ada has been awarded Oscar for  Best Actress in a Leading Role and Anna Paquin has been awarded Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Anna Paquin is the second youngest actress who has won this prize in the history of Oscar. Jane Campion also has the award for Best Writing. The composer of the music that makes us lose ourselves, plays in our ears even in our dreams is Michael Nyman. “The Piano” that makes us travel to oceans inside us, free from those awards, invites us to think about our lives again, sets light to decide on our map, asks us to listen to our passion, inspires to send away everything that is suffocating us in this world full of undelightful things daring to be alone. It leaves us alone with the waves full of joy of living, we must let the waves take us away.   

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