Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Tragic Romance with Piano Music

Back in May, my friend and I became obsessed with Suite Francaise. We saw it a few times at the cinema and read the book the film was based on. Our obsessed started because the end was so abrupt and there was no conclusion for the two main characters. It was an unsatisfying end. I had hoped the book would help but it only made things worse. The author, Irina Nemirovskaya, had planned 5 parts to the story but only two were included in the book and the film focuses on the 2nd part of the story.

Thinking back to 2006, I saw The Painted Veil. This was a love story in reverse. A married couple fall in love only after they are married and living in a cholera striken remote town in China. Of course tragedy is on the horizon. I found the end so unbelievably depressing and thought about reading the book but I never did.

I had read about The Piano briefly but it wasn't high on my list of 'must see films'. A friend of mine suggested I see the film as Anna Paquin had won an Oscar at 11 years old for her role and she is a big fan of Panquin. The Piano is less tragic than the other two films but the saddness of all the characters involved builds up to breaking points, centering around a piano. 

What links all three films is a distinct piece of piano music in each film. Not to be misledaing, I mean separate pieces of music, unique to their own film. I hope I'm not confusing anyone. Another common thread is that all the stories are set in places slightly remote. The Piano is in New Zealand during the mid 19th Century, The Painted Veil is first set in London, then Shanghai and then in a remote village in China, Suite Francaise is in a small town in France.

Suite Francaise, is set in a town on the outskirts of Paris soon after the occupation of France. With many refrugees seeking a place to stay, the town is already over crowded when a German regiment arrives. Lucille lives with her overbearing mother-in-law when an officer is placed in their home. Lucille and Bruno grow closer after their share their love of piano. But with the war, the judging neighbours and Lucille's mother-in-law, there is no hope for these two be together, barley savouring a moment alone together. The piece of music that Bruno is writing, of which the film and book are named after, is echoed through the film. Bruno gives Lucille the finished music so that she can play it and as she said at the end, whenever she does play it, it will always bring her back to him.

Suite Francaise - by Alexandre Desplat

The Painted Veil is about spoilt Kitty who marries bacteriologist Walter to escape her family. While at his post in Shanghai, Kitty has an affair with a married man, a British Vice consul. She assumes that they will marry but she is naive. To punish her, Walter takes a post in a remote village which is experiencing a cholera outbreak. While in the village however, Kitty find a place at the orphanage playing the piano. Slowly Walter and Kitty fall in love again, only for tragedy to strike. The piano music that Kitty plays on the piano at home then in the orphanage echoes through the film is a similar way to Suite Francaise. In one particular scene she plays the music in a way to connect with Walter who remembers the first time he saw her and fell in love with her.The tragedy of it all is that they're just at that point where they can be happy but its taken away from them.

The Painted Veil - Gnossienne, the complete series, by Erik Satie

The Piano is about a mute, Ada, who is sold by her father to marry a frontiersman in New Zealand. All Ada cares about is her daughter who translates for her and her beloved piano. Problems in her new marriage start when her new husband sells the piano to a sailor named Baines who also requests lessons. Through these lessons that start off as a way for her gain her piano back turn into a love affair. The Piano is such a slow paced and at times difficult to watch. But the images of the piano left on the beach with the water curling up around it is beautiful. Combined with the music, the tragic element in the story turns to true romance.

The Piano - soundtrack by Michael Nyman

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