A mute woman along with her young daughter, and her prized piano, are sent to 1850s New Zealand for an arranged marriage to a wealthy landowner, and she's soon lusted after by a local worker on the plantation.
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It is the mid-nineteenth century. Ada is a mute who has a young daughter, Flora. In an arranged marriage she leaves her native Scotland accompanied by her daughter and her beloved piano. Life in the rugged forests of New Zealand's North Island is not all she may have imagined and nor is her relationship with her new husband Stewart. She suffers torment and loss when Stewart sells her piano to a neighbour, George. Ada learns from George that she may earn back her piano by giving him piano lessons, but only with certain other conditions attached. At first Ada despises George but slowly their relationship is transformed and this propels them into a dire situation. Written by
Patrick Dominick <email@example.com>
Picked by Entertainment Weekly magazine as one of the "50 Greatest Independent Films" in a special supplement devoted to independent films that was only distributed to subscribers in November 1997. See more »
When the boat leaves the island, Ada trails her hand in the water, which is still and calm. On long shots, it is foaming from the action of the oars, and the boat on the water. See more »
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 take it into my head to stop breathing will be my last. Today he married me to a man I have not yet met. Soon my daughter and I shall join him in his own country. My husband writes that my muteness does not bother him - and hark this! He says, "God loves dumb creatures, so why not I?" '...
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Magnificent, symbolic film masterpiece plays beautifully, like a piano.
There are very few female directors in the film industry that have been given proper acknowledgment or had their works introduced to mainstream filmgoers. Jane Campion is one of these precious few, a director who carefully paces and sculpts her works so that they magnificently flow like a musical interlude. "The Piano" is her ultimate masterpiece, a film of such simplicity, described with calm and tense complexity. Holly Hunter received an Oscar for her fascinating performance as Ada, a mute woman who is forced into an arranged marriage with a New Zealand landowner, played convincingly by Sam Neill, a native Australian actor himself. Ada journeys to New Zealand with her young daughter (Anna Paquin, also an Oscar-winner that year), few other possessions, and her treasured piano, a part of her that amplifies her voice that she cannot express through vocal communication.
I believe it would be wrong to assume that any of the characters are martyrs in this tragic story, nor would it be right to think Sam Neill's character a villain. You may think this is crazy, but I think the piano itself serves as both a good and bad omen for all that are involved. I would relate it to a "Pandora's box" of sorts, a treasure that exposes all the evil and sin in the world, but which also provides hope as well. The piano is Ada's sounding box, a tool that allows her to escape from a world that does not understand her, but that also threatens her moral compass, removing her from marital conventions and forces her to lose herself.
The performances in "The Piano" are particularly good, especially Holly Hunter's. It is interesting to note that all of Hunter's piano playing in the film is actually Hunter herself performing in front of us. You can visually and aurally feel the mood of Hunter's character through the music she plays. We the audience lose ourselves right along with her, lost upon a sea of music. We see why Keitel becomes enamored by her, and why Neill becomes overcome with jealousy and betrayal. Not many films would allow us to enter the emotions of all three main characters, but this film is truly an exception.
Rarely do we witness real beauty captured on film. "The Piano" is such a visually stunning film, it's almost intoxicating how its atmosphere sweeps across the screen. This landscape is equaled by the performances, bringing understanding and mystery to this wonder. Sometimes symbolism of this nature can be distracting to an audience. "The Piano" dares to follow this symbolic path, and hits a bullseye with full emotional force. Rating: Four stars.
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