While watching The Piano, I was reminded of the movie The Red Violin. The Red Violin was inspired by the Red Mendelssohn, a $1.7 million dollar Stradivarius violin from 1720 with an odd red hue (believe it or not, this is not even remotely close to the most expensive piece of glued wood). Movies with ties to classical music have this air of madness or instability. The musician in the movie has so much talent and power that they don’t quite know what to do with themselves besides play music.
In the Piano, Ada is seemingly trapped in a child’s mind with the piano as her only escape. She is a woman on the outside but she still acts like a child, throwing temper tantrums such as the time she was forced to give Baines piano lessons. A child doesn’t know how to verbally express themselves outside of screaming and throwing things, which is all Ada knows, making her unstable. Though Ada seems to be a different person while playing, she still has a child-like mind. All Baines had to do was wave a piano key shaped cookie in front of her face and she did whatever he wanted, similar to bribing a child.
In the Red Violin, one of the owners of the violin put a new meaning to “my muse” (all of the owners were unstable to put it lightly). He was an excellent performer but seemed to suddenly grow another hand when he enjoyed a woman while playing (puts a new spin on kinky). Too bad the woman he was enjoying wasn’t his wife. His wife knew that the way to hurt him, was through his violin, which is why she shot it. Being as he lost it all, he decided to commit suicide, however the violin continued its destructive journey through Europe.
Overall, movies have this awful stigma of musicians are nutters. Though The Piano defied all expectations in the worse way possible, particularly how restricted and forced Ada’s life was, I felt the movie in the end broke that stigma. Ada was trapped in herself with her inability to speak, trapped by a clueless husband, and trapped into a game of seduction where Baines basically forces himself on her. But rather than give up like most musicians in movies (i.e. our carnal violinist from the Red Violin), Ada found her will to free herself and live.