Is it possible to put forward a feminist film language as distinct from the pervading methods, structures and ideology of mainstream cinema?

Is it possible to put forward a feminist film language as distinct from the pervading methods, structures and ideology of mainstream cinema?

The Piano, Directed by Jane Campion, 1993.
Chocolat, Directed by Claire Denis, 1988.

Paul Catherall

In Film Feminism and Psychoanalysis, a critical dictionary, by E. Wright, the central perquisite of ‘feminist cinema’ is defined as ‘a connection between two sets of practices, feminism and film making,’ with the ‘assumption that interventions in the cultural sphere… can produce changes in the social sphere by bringing women’s experiences to the centre of the film narrative.’ (1.)
In this essay, I shall attempt to demonstrate how women directors, through the use of film-making techniques, are able to focus debate on the female gender, and the role of women in society.

In considering the feminist perspective of the films, I have sought to demonstrate how feminist theory, through aspects such as language, semiotics and ideology have influenced women directors. The basis of my interpretation of feminist approaches in the films, has been the argument, developed by Foulcat and other Marxist theorists, that sexual identity is a social or cultural construct, resulting from social and cultural evolution, and not the ‘natural’ or necessarily ideal definition of gender.
Additionally, I have tried to illustrate ideological debate in the films, demonstrating how feminist marginality, as discussed by Irigaray and Cixous is a predominant feature of feminist film language and stylistic approach.

Other aspects of feminist theory I have sought to identify, include the influence of Structuralism, with its emphasis on the nature of social institutions and convention, and Psychoanalysis, with its deconstructive interpretation of sexuality.

The influence of modern interpretative theories can clearly be seen in the critical and deconstructive filmic style of both Chocolat, directed by Claire Denis, and The Piano, directed by Jane Campion. In Femminism and Psychoanalysis, a critical dictionary, E. Wright describes how women film makers employ the language of film, to deconstruct the traditional Hollywood image of the woman:

‘Feminist avant-garde film of the later 1970s and 80s abandoned the project of an
‘a priori’ unconscious, and sought instead to expose and to interfere with the ways in which the film apparatus, like other systems of representation, contributes to the construction of gendered subjects…’ E. Wright, (2.)

In her essay, Visual pleasure and narrative cinema, Laura Mulvey uses psychoanalysist and structuralist arguments to define the nature and importance of the male ‘gaze’ in traditional Hollywood cinema. Mulvey suggests, that by transferring the perspective of the viewer from the iconographic ‘performance’ of the woman, to that of the male as ‘object’, film makers are able to expose the traditional masculine perspective of the cinema, and therefore the predominance of a male-centred culture in society:

‘The alternative cinema allows for a feminist cinema to be born which is radical in both a political and aesthetic sense, and challenges the assumptions of the mainstream film. The conventions of mainstream film focus on the human form. Scale, space, stories are all anthropomorphic…’ Laura Mulvey (3.)

E. Wright suggests that the function of the female ‘gaze’ in cinema should primarily be the exposure of the ‘Patriarchal’ perspective in society, however, she also considers the inclusion of viewing pleasure, of sexual and erotic ‘objects’ as essential for the popularisation of films espousing the feminist perspective:

‘A women’s cinema is characterised in terms of address; that is it addresses the spectator as female. Furthermore, a feminist cinema must not forfeit pleasure which is vital for the cinema’s survival and its development as a political weapon.’
E Wright, (4.)

In discussing the ‘language’ of feminist film, the stylistic and narrative methods through which the perspective of the ‘auteur’ is conveyed, I have chosen to identify the main technical and sociological features of mainstream cinema, comparing the Hollywood treatment and use of film device with approaches in the films studied.
Aspects for consideration include: Ideology, i.e. the belief systems and cultural outlooks assumed by society; Representation, i.e. the aesthetic representation of social and cultural reality, often presenting aesthetic constructs as familiar or natural; Voyeurism and Exhibitionism, i.e. actively taking pleasure in the observation of the human body, or engaging in the passive display of the self; The Gaze, i.e. the use of filmic technique to identify the viewer with the visual perspective of a character within the film, mainly for viewing pleasure; The Image, i.e. the representation of filmic character to cultural stereotypes; Sociology and Semiology, i.e. the arbitrary relationship between the ‘signified’ entity or social rolé, and its social and cultural connotations; Iconography, i.e. the use of mis-en-scene, perspective and other visual stylistic features to focus viewer attention on attributes of character or landscape; Discourse, i.e. the interpretative or didactic method with which story or ‘diegeisis’ is conveyed.

To begin with, Chocolat was directed and produced by Claire Denis in 1988, and its story of a young woman’s return to her childhood home, in former French colonial Cameroon, closely mirrors Denis’ own colonial experience.

One of the most striking aspects of the film, is the interplay between gender and race, and that between colonialism and social ideology.
Also interesting is the dual focus of the plot, which portrays in detail the lives of two French women, Aimeé, the local commandant’s wife, and her daughter France. Both women are influenced and defined by their colonial experience – by the alien environment in which they have been placed, and by the social ethics and ideology of French imperialist society.

Denis shows us early on that she is interested in the filmic representation of gender and race. Our first impression of Cameroon is of an almost monochrome coastal beach, we see two figures approaching, but it is unclear whether their gender is male or female, or whether their skin colour is black or white. As the camera moves into focus, we are presented with the exotic foliage of a tropical beach, and the clearly defined forms of a Negro child and man.
Claire Denis obviously wants us to acknowledge the universality of humanity, by blurring distinctions between gender and race; similarly, we are led to identify with the beach as elemental to the landscape of any part of the world.
The particularly semiotic emphasis of France as a young, attractive white woman, and representative of mainstream cultural and sexual cinema stereotypes suggests Denis’ intention to deliberately subvert or employ the language of Hollywood cinema. This image encourages the viewer’s comparison with the nearby Africans, and prompts a critical or problematic interpretation of the scene.

‘By means of such seamless identification with displaced persons, the skill with which she practices the subtle and dangerous art of sharing skins with men and women, blacks and whites, and her sharp eye for landscape as a state of soul, Claire Denis proves herself to be a cinematic cosmopolitan…’ (5.) Kathleen Murphy

Similarly, the Nineteenth Century concept of African ineptitude for self-determinism is deconstructed through Denis’ portrayal of sympathetic European colonials. Marc Dalens, the Mindiff commandant is often seen consulting with native leaders, in an attempt to involve Africans in the running of their own country.
Also important in representing the ‘other’ in Africa is the role of Sargennes, a social recluse who prefers the company of the Africans to their European masters. Through calculated hyperbole and derisive criticism, Sargennes gradually provokes the domicile ‘houseboy’ Proteé into an aggressive confrontation. Sargennes, represents a break from traditional colonial order, he cannot communicate with Aimeé’s European guests, and sits with the African servants during meals. It is Sargennes’ reading of the previous commandant’s journal that defines the film’s revisionist tone on race:

‘I myself on seeing nothing but their dark faces, found white skin against nature unnatural compared to their black tones, can one blame the aboriginals for assuming the white man to be a supernatural or demonic being?’ (6.) Chocolat

Proteé’s victory over Sargennes, and the retreat of the latter into the darkness of the yard suggests the imminent passing of colonial order in Africa, and an affirmation of the competence and independent spirit of native Africans.

The common humanity of Africans, as opposed to traditional imperial views on racial inferiority, is challenged through the near-embrace of Aimeé and Proteé. What restrains Proteé are the consequences of violating the taboo of inter-racial involvement with white colonial women.
Another example of Denis’ deconstructive representation of race is the presentation of Proteé as a culturally aware individual, who embraces the new European culture, whilst retaining his rich African oral heritage. Proteé performs a ceremonial dance for France in his own language. The dance suggests the burden of colonialism under the African people, symbolised in Proteé’s carrying France. Similarly, Proteé sings a choral song in French to the servant Demoret, and demonstrates linguistic talent, in his use of French and English.

Another aspect of Denis’ representation of Africa, is seen in images of traditional African life throughout the film. The drab mortar walls of the colonial residence contrast starkly with the brightly coloured wattle dwellings of the natives.

The Europeans are also represented in a deliberate and deconstructive way. The position of the Europeans in the camera’s frame often seems to suggest marginality, displacement or isolation. Thus, France is seen riding her donkey at the extreme corner of the screen, while the expansive African bush predominates in the background.

Far from a consistently positive representation, the Europeans are often seen as a derisive and dislocated community, unable to exist in harmony amongst each other or alongside their African subjects. The coffee plantationist, Delpich symbolises both colonial exploitation of Africa and the racism that accompanies it. His wife, a Negro who by convention must sit apart from the white company, illustrates both the predominance of Europeans and the masculinity of colonial society.

Denis’ use of image also deconstructs traditional stereotypes, roles and assumptions in colonial European society. Aimeé is initially presented as a happy, contented colonial wife, but as the film unfolds we discern the fragility and isolation of a lonely and displaced individual. Aimeé is constantly frustrated, in her wish for familiar culture and companionship, through her desire for Proteé and in her husband’s misunderstanding.
When Aimeé asks Marc if she may order some books from Paris, he seems not to hear, suggesting the fact that knowledge and culture are primarily the province of men, as seen in Marc’s obsession with his journal:

‘Certainly, the marginal position of women in the colonies symbolises their marginality in society as a whole. Claire Denis has said of colonial wives and daughters that they represented France, but lived an empty, futile existence while their husbands and fathers lived a romanticised adventure. Kathleen Murphy (7.)

Whilst Denis attempts to demonstrate the marginality of women in colonial society, she also demonstrates the functional pre-eminence of men in that social order. Denis exposes the masculine, or paternal nature of society through an overt, often extreme representation of male extroversion. The early portrayal of Proteé and Marc urinating together on the roadside suggests the common humanity of the two men, but also reflects the phallocentricism of a predominantly masculine society. Similarly, Marc’s ambitions expose the active nature of masculinity in society, as opposed to the passivity of the waiting women:

‘Next year I’ll widen the road.’ Chocolat (8.)

Proteé becomes an extension of Marc’s role as the head of the community and father of the Dalens family:

‘I leave them in your hands Proteé look after them…’ Chocolat (9.)

The character of France is significant in Denis’ deconstruction of colonial values and paternalistic society; a yet largely unformed individual, she is subject both to the influence of African and colonial European values and ethics. The relationship with Proteé is at times intimate, but never sexual, suggesting the potential for understanding and friendship between very different individuals from disparate cultures and societies. Incidents such as France’s exchanging food with Proteé, and her accepting ants to eat, suggest the fundamental breakdown of cultural barriers between the European and African cultures.

Proteé and France represent the coming together of European and African cultures. France’s youth suggests that unlike adult colonials, her ideology is yet unformed, and therefore unprejudiced by European Imperialist and cultural

Iconography is also an important feature of the deconstructive framework in Chocolat. Denis deliberately uses the central focus of the camera to rest the viewer’s gaze on images or objects illustrative of her thematic concerns.
The scene where Delpich feeds his native wife is particularly interesting, since we are presented with a wholly inverted or deconstructed view of woman, entirely outside the traditional stereotypes of Hollywood and mainstream cinema. Delpich’s wife is seen huddled in darkness on the floor of her room, an isolated and displaced individual, her unkempt hair and plain, emotionless expression seem to force an acknowledgement of the black woman as ordinary and marginalised upon the viewer.

The iconography of Proteé is also significant, especially since we are made more aware of this black serving-man than Marc or indeed any other European male. The regular representation of Proteé’s naked body, e.g: when showering, and in profile as the central frame image, suggests an attempt by Denis to impress the humanity and physical beauty of a traditionally distorted and marginalised people.

Another use of icons, is seen in the repeated image of Marc’s favourite mountain. The rock suggests the imperial ethic of topographical discovery and penetration of remote places, much in the same theme as Marc’s ironic reference to the ‘horizon,’ as a goal or ‘line that can never be reached.’ The romantic allusions of Marc illustrate the mythos and deception of imperial morality, and the masculine tendency of imperialism to engage in ideological or esoteric struggles for a goal that can never really be understand or possessed. The phallic form of the rock also suggests the darker Freudian attributes of masculine aggression and phallocentric superiority. Marc’s masculine endorsement of the imperial myth, and engagement with the brutality of wild Africa is suggested in his comment:

‘Of course I like forests, the dung acts on you like a drug…’ Chocolat (8.)

Marc also possesses certain feminist attributes, such as his demure manner, and interest in native art and culture. Marc’s obsession with the ‘phallic’ rock may symbolise a Freudian ‘castration’ of the colonial system, and its impending collapse. It is through Marc that Denis largely deconstructs male masculinity and the mainstream filmic image of the male as hero. It is also through the exposure of Marc’s femininity and colonialism that Denis exposes the patriarchal nature of European society.

The negative influence of colonialism is seen in the real Cameroon that France revisits as a woman. The sadness felt by France, because of her dislocation from her childhood home illustrates the Imperialist legacy of trauma and isolation. The American African, William J. Park also symbolises the influence of imperialism. Individuals like France and Park may visit Africa with a sense of nostalgia or ideological affinity, but they lack a fundamental sense of belonging to Africa.
The deconstruction of the colonial or coloniser as ideal exposes the painful reality that France is not African, and that she can never fully understand the indigenous psyche of Africa. Similarly, Park commemnts:

‘There’s no use for guys like me here,
here, I’m just a fantasy.’ (9.) Chocolat

The ideological framework of Chocolat, and its narrative discourse ssems based upon a principle of binary deconstruction. Working within the framework of colonialism, Denis blends her intimate and accurate knowledge of colonial life with a penetrating analysis of social marginality, in race and gender. Denis identifies the binary oppositions that have traditionally influenced European ideology on race, gender and the social / moral order of which they are a part. We are made continually aware of the differences existing between black and white, colonial and coloniser, male and female, governor and subject. It is through such emphasis on the disparity between binary opposites, that Denis encourages our awareness of social injustice and inequality within society. Contrasts include the passivity of Aimeé, as opposed to the proaction of Marc, and the domicility of Proteé as contrasted with the self-importance of the europeans. The technical and stylistic language of film is therefore employed to emphasise the oppositions, tensions and displacemnt within colonial society, deconstructing the myths of imperial ideology. Central to the de-marginalising of Africa is the removal of the male ‘gaze’ from woman as object to the perspective of Proteé. Similarly, phallocentric, male-dominated society is exposed through the inverted or negative portrayal of family life for European colonials, Aimee’s restless desire for Protee is an example of this.

The Piano, directed by Jane Campion, 1993, seems to possess many aspects of early feminist theory, and Campion herself admits the importance of the Brontës in her work. The character of Ada (played by Holly Hunter,) is potrayed within typical middle class victorian circumstances; hers is a dispossessed and status-less gender. Like many Victorian women, Ada is forced to marry a man she does not love, but will be dependant upon for material sustenance. Contracts, bargins and the nature of marital relationships are debated throughout the film. Campion is a trained anthropologist, and it is apparent in The Piano, that we are viewing a structuralist analysis of the interrelationship between individuals within their cultural and moral environment.
Like Chocolat, The Piano is set in an imperial age, and in a colonial environment. The world of imperial myth and ideology is directly related to the role of the coloniser, the patriarch or authority figure, through whom moral order is decided and maintained. Gender roles are thus determined by the balance of power being squarley in favour of men, with women relegated to the functions of domestic work, child bearing and the ornamental status of wife.
Ada the central character, is presented as a mute woman, who cannot, or more likely refuses to express herself in the ordinary language of patriarchal society. Instead, she conveys her passions and longing for self-fulfilment through the deeply emotional music of her piano. The fact that Ada’s muteness is a ‘dark talent’ suggests it is of her own free will that she refuses to speak:

‘The voice you hear, is not my speaking voice. But my mind’s voice. I have not spoken since I was six years old. No one knows why. Not even me. My father says it is a dark talent, and the day I have taken into my head stop breathing, will be my last…’
The Piano, (9.)

Campion’s representation of Ada challenges the stereotypical role of nineteenth century women as demure, contented bastions of the family. Ada fulfils some domestic functions, in that she is loving toward her daughter Flora, but we are also shown through her characterisation and music, the passions and energy of an individual struggling for emotional self-fulfilment.

(14.) The dull tones of the beach reflect Ada’s emotional tension.

Ada’s passions and fears are mirrored the the powerful imagery of the beach. The arrival of the uncivilised Maoris and Stewart seem to add to the masculinity and restrained violence of the landscape.

This vital representation of woman, as opposed to the constricted formality of Victorian sexual and emotional morality is repeated throughout the film. One of the most powerful scenes conveying Ada’s vitality and emotional feeling is the landing at New Zealand, where Ada dismisses the dockers and awaits her new husband on the beach. The oppressive phallocentric environment to which Ada is subject is suggested in the aggression of the chief docker, and in the visual image of a vast and restless sea before the two women. The ‘Turneresque’ tension and dynamism of the beach scene, heightens our impression both of Ada’s insecurity and frank defiance toward the physical and metaphorical maelstrom about her.
Another interesting representation of women in The Piano, is Campion’s portrayal of Maori society. The leader of the local native community is a female elder, a matriarch, as opposed to the customary European role of the male, as seen in Ada’s new husband, Stewart.

Two worlds quickly become apparent in the film – that of the Maoris, and their adopted Scottish friend Baines, and the conventional Victorian community of the settlers, including Stewart and his servants. Most disparate between the two communities, perhaps, is their widely differing ethical, social and emotional ideologies. It by comparing the two communities in the film that we are able to understand the nature of Victorian patriarchal society, of which Ada is a subject.

The Maoris are presented as dignified, gentle and tolerant of the Europeans, they regard the natural world as sacred, and refuse Stewart’s offer for the sale of land. Baines, a Scottish pioneer, and represents a cross-cultural European understanding of the Maoris; he is accepted by them because he respects and partially adopts their customs, such as learning their language and adopting a Maori tattoo. The relationship between Baines and the Maoris does, however function on a deeper level.
Like the Maoris, Baines is an emotionally and sexually expressive individual, unlike Stewart, whose ethical psyche represses sexual passion and emotion. Similarly, the rigid hierarchical community of the farm is a stark contrast to Baine’s communal dwelling, which houses both his Maori friends and several animals under the same roof.

(16.) Baines (Played by Harvey Keitel,) demonstrates a freedom of sexual and emotional expression lacking in the ‘civilised’ settler community. It is interesting that Campion chose to cast this actor as the deconstructed male, since Keitel has been well stereotyped as an action character actor, famous for his roles in the violent and disturbing films of
De Palma and Kubrik, such as ‘Mean Streets,’ and ‘taxi Driver.’

Stewart has imported British hierarchical order and emotional morality to his New Zealand farm. British capitalism and imperial ethics are fundamental features of the community, thus we see Maori servants chanting the English national anthem, and Stewart hard at work enclosing the local landscape.

Along with the constrictions of culture that separate people from themselves and from each other, the limits of language reflect the limits of emotions and cultural understanding. Stewart cannot speak the Maori language and misunderstands their motives almost as often as he misunderstands Ada.
From the begining, the views and emotional psyche of these two men detaermine their understanding of Ada and her emotional passions. On their first meeting, it is no accident that both Baines and Stewart are present to give their different impressions of Ada. Stewart treats Ada like an imbercile, and is unmoved by the meeting, suggetsing that he is simply interested in the aquisition of a wife as an accessory to his masculinity. Baines, however suggests that Ada is ‘tired,’ and seems to reject Stewart’s notion that Ada is somehow ‘stunted.’ Perhaps Baines suggests an alternative, and more humane view of woman than is seen in Stewart’s criticism of Ada’s looks.

The sublimity of the natural landscape reflects the anger and passions of Ada, but also the threat of destructive natural forces beyond her control.

Stewart’s endorsement of the conventional Victorian view, that Ada is somehow strange (or to use Ann Kaplan’s term ‘The Other,’ 10, ) is an endorsement of the constricted and subjegated role of women within the social order of patriarchal society. The lack of emotion or passion offered to Ada by Stewart, and his almost immediate departure after the mediocre wedding, demonstrates the restrained emotional and sexual ethics of Victorian society, and suggests the hollow transactional nature of Nineteenth Century marriage as a financial arrangent, rather than the recognition of an emotional or sexual bond.

Perhaps the most striking exapmple of the influence of partriarchy, is seen in the betrayal by Flora of Ada’s affair, suggesting the indoctrination of male authority on developing individuals.

The use of mis-en-scene is powerfully employed to convey the isolation and tensioin of Ada in her new, patriarchal environment. The image of the piano, hemmned in by the approaching tide suggests a parallel between Ada’s passion for emotional fulfilment and the dynamic life-force of the natural world. In this sense, Ada’s musical passion is suggestive of the ‘Aolean lyre’ which made music through the vibration of strings by the breeze.

Ada’s need for emotional fulfillment is voiced through her music, thus she is able to express her longing for self-fulfilment in a way that words are incapable of expressing.
The depence of Ada on her piano is emphasised by her etching piano keys on the kitchen table. Stewart’s inability to understand this apparenly lunatic behaviour demonstrates his inability to recognise her deep emotional drives and needs.

It is the insaitiable desire for emotional fulfilment that fuels Ada’s passionate music, and it is due to her inability to conceptualise the material form of the ideal she seeks, i.e: sexual and emotional bonding with another, that leads her to persue the emotion of music, and concede her passivity to Baines in return for the piano. During the piano lessons, Ada initially seems unaware of Baine’s sexuality, or the patience and equanimity with which he encourages her sexual feelings for him to surface:

‘The Piano shows us abandoned, isolated, constricted characters who suffer in silence but who will do almost anything to feel alive and to preserve that aliveness. Jane Campion’s characters are as emotionally constricted as the crated piano on the isolated New Zealand beach, as isolated as Ada who can play the piano but cannot or will not speak.’ Donald Williams (10.)

Baine’s exhibition of his own naked body before Ada inverts the cinema viewer’s gaze, and reveals the deconstructed nature of Baine’s masculinity as the passive object, rather than as voyeuristic possessor of the ‘gaze.’
Interestingly, Stewart explicitly adopts the perspective of the male ‘gaze’ in looking at Ada and Baines through a chink during their passionate copulation. Scopophilia or viewing-pleasure is itself considered here. The voyeurism of Stewart’s observation through the hole suggests a critique of the traditional male-centred ‘gaze’ as a violating or intrusive act.

The emotional transformation of Ada, from seeking emotional fulfilment to acquiring a vital sexual and emotional awareness, is accomplished through immersion in the emotional and sexual morality of Baines. Baines reveals to Ada, perhaps for the first time, the reality, rather than the ideal of emotional and sexual love. The Patriarchal constraints of emotional and sexual morality have constrained Ada’s ability to realise the fulfilment of her emotional consciousness. The movement of Ada from the constrictive morality and emotional misinterpretation of Stewart, to the deeper emotional and sexual understanding of Baines represents the development of Ada as a fully emotional and feeling being:

‘Baines uses masculinity to subvert Ada, but also gives something in return. they both sacrifice something to attain a new understanding of themselves and each other…
Donald Williams, (11.)

The loss of Ada’s restless passion, and acquisition of emotional fulfilment with Baines is symbolised by the throwing of the piano into the sea on the journey home. Ada’s earlier alter-ego, the constrained, passive and emotionally deficient subject of patriarchal society, symbolically drowns with the instrument of her lost passion.
Ada does however remember the passion of her former self, through her unconscious dreams, this is the ‘deep, deep voice,’ or emotional and sexual desire within, which Ada identities as fundamental to human nature. Finally, it is ironically the lost passion for emotional fulfilment that becomes the unreal or ideal in Ada’s psyche:

‘At night I think of my piano and its ocean grave, and sometimes of myself floating above it. Down here everything is so still and silent t that it lulls me to sleep.
it is a like a lullaby and so it is, it is mine.’ The Piano (12.)

Ultimately, therefore, both Chocolat and The Piano can be seen to demonstrate use of a particular feminist film language, distinct from mainstream cinema methods and techniques. In the case of Chocolat, structuralist and semiotic influences are clearly present in the repeated definition of binary oppositions, in gender, culture and race. Similarly, the film attempts to reconcile cultural differences, and to deconstruct the barriers of imperial ideology through the complex emotional relationships between individuals. This is most apparent in the friendship between Proteé and France, whose ideological assumptions are as yet largely unformed by cultural attitudes or prejudice.
The thematic correlation between race and gender demonstrates most effectively Denis’ critique of a predominantly male-endorsed society. Aimeé’s illicit attraction for Proteé is also a powerful inversion of representations in Hollywood cinema of complementary race romance.
The Piano demonstrates the effectiveness of feminist film language through its contrast between a restrictive, non-emotional patriarchal society, and the powerful emotions of Ada, who seeks fulfilment without understanding the fundamental nature of her desire. The passion of Ada’s music conveys the desperate longing to break free from the oppression of an imposed sexual and emotional morality. Ada must return to the wilderness of raw, primeval emotion to rediscover how to love, and fulfil her emotional emptiness.
Noticeably, however, it is only through giving up her passion, or radical character that Ada is able to learn the necessity of surrender to love, thus acquiring a balanced emotional relationship with Baines, who sets an example for her through his own passivity. The feminist language of The Piano, is therefore one which seeks, not only to deconstruct traditional male centred ideology, but also that of feminism itself.

Both films attempt to deconstruct the mythos of imperialism, associating patriarchal aggression and fantasy with the ethics of colonialism. In this way, both directors demonstrate the artificial nature of gender and culture as the tool or construct of a male-centred social order.
Throughout the films therefore, we are able to identify key technical or stylistic methods that are identifiable with feminist theory – such as the treatment of representation, image, the gaze and use of mise-en-scene to iconise the image within the frame.

In conclusion, therefore, it does seem that a feminist film language exits, and is still in the process of development amongst some directors. The feminist language of film primarily deconstructs cultural stereotypes which are the concern of feminist theory, and is distinct in many ways from technical and stylistic methods used by traditional and mainstream cinema.