Review: The Piano (1993)

The Piano


Jane Campion
Jane Campion
121 min.
Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill, Anna Paquin
MPAA Rating
R for moments of extremely graphic sexuality

Buy on DVD



Going up against the emotional juggernaut of Schindler’s List in the 1993 Oscar race was one of the most unfortunate things a film like The Piano could ever do. In another year, The Piano could have been Best Picture. The film tells the story of a mute woman and her young daughter married off to an English gentleman trying to make a living in the colony of New Zealand. Her only voice is the large piano she brings on the long sea journey with her. When her husband refuses to bring it with them to the new house, a local guide decides to trade some of his land for the object and coax the pianist to his house in an effort to get close to her.

Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin received Oscars for their performances in the film and watching it, it’s not difficult to see why. Paquin shows us the quality of actress she would become and, although just a child and prone to a few pieces of overacting, still creates a believable and dimensional character. Hunter manages to convey hate, frustration, love, fear and many other emotions without speaking a word. The way she thrusts notes at those whom she does not respect, the way she melts into her music as she skillfully plays the piano, which, in her hands (Hunter actually played the piano for the film) and the gorgeous scoring of Michael Nyman becomes a secondary character.

Sam Neill who hasn’t always been the most interesting of actors plays the doting husband who becomes more distrustful and angry as the film goes on, unable to secure the affections of his new bride. Harvey Keitel was surprisingly not nominated for an Oscar for his subtle and richly detailed performance as the guide who slowly falls in love with the talented woman whose passions are given in exchange for a payment of individual keys from the piano. Apart from Nyman’s brilliant score, the film features some outstanding art direction, costume design and cinematography, which captures the filthy, muddy environment while bring the audience into the passionate embrace of the film’s love affair.
Review Written
September 20, 2010


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  1. Not set in Australia-its a totally Kiwi movie!!

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