Challenges In the Field of Senses

“For a long time an ocularcentric paradigm prevailed in film theory that gave precedence to approaches focusing on vision.” (Thomas and Malte, 2010) While in the past 20 years, related theories have changed, not only in terms of vision, also auditory sense. The Piano(1993) could be a good example to prove that.

In this film, what Jane, the director, does is to remind audience the limitation of their sense of seeing and hearing. It is reiterated that neither the mysterious vision nor the emotive soundtrack, however, could fully take on building a certain perception of this film. Instead, the visual, aural like monologue, and narrative work together, conveying an incompatible meaning behind what is seen and what is heard.


It is extremely obvious in the opening scene. Everything is obscure at first. It may take long to differentiate what is on the screen while the effort is in vain. Audience will not know those cylinder-like shadows are actually fingers until the next frame come. In it, a woman is watching through eyes, which she has covered with fingers. At the same time, a voice, sounds like her monologue, begins. While almost at once, viewers come to realize that they have not really heard her at all. As the the heroine says in the beginning, “The voice you hear is not my speaking voice, but my mind’s voice.” Therefore, audience are manipulated to believe what they heard is the mute woman’s inner voice. In this way, she is able to tell what really happened without the help of language, the medium representing masculine possession of logos. Here come the questions, what if her real voice is not the monologue-like thing we heard? Also is with the eyes, what will the woman see thorough her inner eyes? What about the viewers? It could be argued that Jane tries hard to encourage audience to question our visual and aural sense, to rethink the relation of what on the screen and what we perceive, to explore multiple layers of our senses.

Mengyu Huang


Thomas, M. H. (2010) Film Theory: an introduction through the senses, 1st ed. New York: Routledge.

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