The PianoDirector: Jane Campion, Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill
Writer/director Jane Campion's third feature unearthed emotional undercurrents and churning intensity in the story of a mute woman's rebellion in the recently colonized New Zealand wilderness of Victorian times. Ada McGrath (Holly Hunter), a mute who has willed herself not to speak, and her strong-willed young daughter Flora (Anna Paquin) find themselves in the New Zealand wilderness, with Ada the imported bride of dullard land-grabber Stewart (Sam Neill). Ada immediately takes a dislike to Stewart when he refuses to carry her beloved piano home with them. But Stewart makes a deal with his overseer George Baines (Harvey Keitel) to take the piano off his hands. Attracted to Ada, Baines agrees to return the piano in exchange for a series of piano lessons that become a series of increasingly charged sexual encounters. As pent-up emotions of rage and desire swirl around all three characters, the savage wilderness begins to consume the tiny European enclave. Campion imbues her tale with an over-ripe tactility and a murky, poetic undertow that betray the characters' confined yet overpowering emotions: Ada's buried sensuality, Baines' hidden tenderness, and Stewart's suppressed anger and violence. The story unfolds like a Greek tragedy of the Outback, complete with a Greek chorus of Maori tribesmen and a blithely uncaring natural environment that envelops the characters like an additional player. Campion directs with discreet detachment, observing one character through the glances and squints of another as they peer through wooden slats, airy curtains, and the spaces between a character's fingers. She makes the film immediate and urgent by implicating the audience in characters' gazes. And she guides Hunter to a revelatory performance of silent film majesty. Relying on expressive glances and using body language to convey her soulful depths, Hunter became a modern Lillian Gish and won an Oscar for her performance, as did Paquin and Campion for her screenplay. Campion achieved something rare in contemporary cinema: a poetry of expression told in the form of an off-center melodrama.
- Release Date:
- Original Release:
- Live / Artisan
Cast & Crew
|Holly Hunter||Ada McGrath|
|Harvey Keitel||George Baines|
|Anna Paquin||Flora McGrath|
|Kerry Walker||Aunt Morag|
|Peter Dennett||Head Seaman|
|Te Whatanui Skimworth||Chief Nihe|
|Bruce Allpress||Blind Piano Tuner|
|Jon Brazier||Wedding Photographer|
|Karen Colston||Bluebeard's Wife|
|Julian Lee||Cloud Carrier Boy|
|George Boyle||Flora's Grandfather|
|Alun Bollinger||Camera Operator|
|Alain Depardieu||Executive Producer|
|Andrew McAlpine||Production Designer|
|Michael Nyman||Score Composer|
|Janet Patterson||Costumes/Costume Designer|
|Lee Smith||Sound/Sound Designer|
|Mark Turnbull||Associate Producer|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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this movie shows betrayal, passion, and empowerment. it is not just the music that empowers the character ada, but it is her silence driven by her will which lets her have the final say. and no matter what any man tries to pull on her, in the end, she is her own woman.
I truly loved this film. I loved the characters, the music, the cinematography, the story line...everything!!! Yes, the daughter came off as a bit of a brat, but that did not take away from the beauty of the film or the story. I can not imagine anyone finding this movie "boring"...if you have a romantic bone in your body "and you have a pulse" then I should think that you too, will love this film. I came online today hoping to find that this film was adapted from a novel as I was so hoping to read it...I watched the film several months ago and have not been able to "forget" it...I am not sure how anyone could claim that this was a "forgettable" movie...I am sure that even Simon Cowell would be impressed with this film!
In The Piano, Ada Mc Grath is branded a fallen woman, an outcast by the standards of Victorian England because of the illegitimate birth of her daughter, Flora. As punishment, Ada¿s father sends her as a mail order bride to wed the insipid land grubbing, Stewart. Ada and her nine-year-old daughter are sent by sea into the recently colonized New Zealand: a raw, desolate, dangerous wilderness where Stewart is working his land among the Mäori natives in the New Zealand bush. The story begins with Ada, a mute speaking to us through her mind. We hear her narrative voice at the beginning and at the end of the movie but she communicates with us throughout the movie, capturing our imagination through signing, her body language and her music. We see the first of Ada¿s strong will and determination when she shows her anger as the obstinate Stewart declares that her cherished piano cannot be carried. She signs to her daughter that she wants to know when they could send the men back to pick it up and the rage she feels when (old dry balls as the natives laughingly call him) shows no concern or understanding for her predicament. Stewart smiles at her; she does not smile back. As the party ascends to the top of the cliff, Ada pauses to look sadly down on the beach where the raging surf crashes in around her piano. Later, Ada and Flora go to Baines¿s, the Mäori native with the tattooed face, and convince him to take them back to the beach where she and her daughter play all day; Baines, listening to her music, watching her play, seeing her emotions and the joy her music brings, is falling for her. Baines does not see her as silenced the way Stewart does. It is Baines who rescues the piano for her, making a deal with the greedy Stewart. As part of the deal (Baines swaps the piano for 50 acres of land) he says that Ada must give him lessons otherwise the piano is no good to him. When Stewart tells Ada, she flies into a rage, breaking cups, stamping her feet, pulling laundry off the line; she then writes a little note, (`The piano is mine. It¿s mine!¿) Stewart reacts with a violent display of silencing her by slamming his hand down on the table; he tells her they are a family now and she will have to make sacrifices like he has had to do. Without her piano, Ada feels the confinement of Stewart¿s cabin as very claustrophobic, cramped, and limiting, too silent. We can see her clearly as Stewart¿s possession, subject to his will but she does not smile nor does she cry. Her emotions are contained so she goes to Baines to give him lessons on her beautiful piano. Passion and betrayal rage in the movie and it is said that Ada ''...doesn¿t play like we do. She plays like a mood that passes into you¿.
Jane Campion's 'The Piano' comes across as nothing more than a pretentious and dull piece of melo-dramatic cinema. Its only saving grace is the beutiful cinematography of New Zealand's untamed wilderness and a strong performance by Harvey Keitel. One finds it hard to associate with either Ada (Holly Hunter) or her pretentious daughter Flora (Anna Paquin.) Their prudish and overly self-righteous personalities simply evoke no sympathy. Anna Paquin's character acting as Hunter's mouthpiece added to the irritation: after two-hours of listenting to a child's incessant temper tantrums, I lost all interest in the film's direction. Overall, a very forgettable melo-drama about a prudish woman with a pretentious and insolent daughter who both feel that life in the colonies should revolve only around their needs. A real yawner where the only things that keep you awake are the overly irritating temper tantrums of Anna Paquin's character.
I saw this film several years ago because I am a fan of Sam Neill. I had seen Harvey Keitel in several films, and I think Holly Hunter in one previous to this. The beautiful New Zealand locations and the excellent performances could not redeem this story about a willful, manipulative woman and her equally self-centered offspring. I hated Ada with a passion, within about 20 minutes of the opening. She is so selfish that she doesn't care for the plight of other women, but only what she can get for herself. She even uses her child to wheedle what she wants from the men and women around her. By the time her husband took her fingertip, I was rooting for him to cut her skull open with that axe. At the end of the film I couldn't decide who was worse off, her husband for losing her (with the financial investment he made in bringing her to NZ and his genuine attempts to love and care for her), or her lover, for getting stuck with her. We never learned if the catharsis of abandoning even her own suicide actually helped Ada grow into some kind of whole human being. I have never watched this film again, and I hope I never encounter a woman like Ada.