The Piano
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FAQ Contents

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Piano can be found here.

The Piano was based on a screenplay by New Zealand born film-maker Jane Campion, who also produced and directed this movie. Campion won the Academy Award that year for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. Campion subsequently novelized the screenplay, co-writing with Canadian novelist Kate Pullinger.

Ada McGrath (Holly Hunter) and her young daughter Flora (Anna Paquin) were originally from Scotland. Upon Ada's forced betrothal to New Zealand land developer Alisdair Stewart (Sam Neill), she packed up herself, her daughter, and her piano and moved to New Zealand.

At the beginning of the film, through Ada's narration with "not my speaking voice but my mind's voice," she explains that she hasn't spoken since she was six years old and that she doesn't know why. In Campion's novelization of the movie, it is explained that her father scolded her about saying something, and she thought she would punish him by not speaking. She went without speaking for so long that there was almost no way of her going back to speaking again, so she began signing and playing the piano as ways to communicate instead.

Holly Hunter is not mute. She is an accomplished actress who can currently be seen in a speaking role in the TV series Saving Grace (2007-2010). Because of her performance in The Piano, Hunter won an Academy Award that year for the Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Yes. Holly Hunter is an accomplished pianist and was able to perform all the piano pieces attributed to her.

George Baines (Harvey Keitel) served as an interpreter between Alisdair and the Maoris. He also appeared to be a landowner.

Baines offered Alisdair some land that Alisdair wanted in exchange for the piano and lessons on playing it from Ada.

Ada wrote: "Dear George you have my heart Ada McGrath."

In the novel, the children at the schoolhouse read it for him. The two natives who got the key that "wouldn't sing" from Stewart took it to the schoolhouse where George happened to be at the moment. He recognized it and proffered sweets to the children there who could read the message for him. After some difficulty, the message is read. George returns to his hut, where he finds Flora holding the bloody wrapped parcel. The scene was scripted but cut from the movie.

EDITED ENDING: After Alisdair reads a message containing on the piano key, he furiously returns home and cuts off Ada's index finger. He then sends her to Baines with her severed finger in the cloth, telling her if Ada attempts to see Baines ever again, he will chop off more fingers. After Flora screams "MOTHER!!", the screen cuts to black and the credits roll.

UNCUT ENDING: Alisdair decides to send Ada and Flora away after she recovers from her injuries. Ada, Flora, George, and the piano set sail for Nelson. Along the way, Ada announces that she wants the piano to be tossed overboard, since it is "spoiled". As the piano descends into the depths, Ada slips her foot into the rope still tied to the piano and, subsequently, she is pulled overboard with the piano. As she descends with the piano, she suddenly realizes that she still wants to live. She kicks off the boot around which the rope is caught and swims to the surface where the natives pull her back onto the boat. Ada, Flora, and George settle in Nelson. In a voiceover, Ada says that George has fashioned a metal finger for her so that she can play and teach piano and that she is learning to speak again but is shy about it. She prances on a porch, practicing her vocal sounds, her head covered so that no one can see her. George steps into the picture, and the two of them embrace. In the final scene, Ada is reflecting over her piano "in its ocean grave" and pictures herself floating above it, saying in narration that she loves the sense of silence this gives her. The scene cuts to the piano, which can be seen at the bottom of the ocean. As the camera pulls back, we see the boot that Ada kicked off, floating above the piano. As the camera continues to pull back, we see an image of Ada herself tied to the piano, dead. Ada's voice then recites the first three lines of Thomas Hood's poem "Silence," as the screen fades to black: "There is a silence where hath been no sound/There is a silence where no sound may be/In the cold grave--under the deep, deep sea..."

The meaning of the final scene, where it shows Ada underwater, still tied to the piano, is not explained, not even in the novelization. Some viewers think that it symbolizes a part of her that was left with the piano. Others think it could mean that she did, in fact, go down with the piano and that the epilogue scene takes place in the afterlife. This, however, is proven to be false, as the novel says in the beginning that Ada died as an older woman living with Flora and her daughters.

If by "similar", you are referring to movies where a mail-order bride travels thousands of miles to marry a man she has never met, there is the Sarah, Plain and Tall series -- Sarah, Plain and Tall (1991), Skylark (1993), and Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter's End (1999), in which a woman from Maine travels to the Kansas plains to marry a widower and mother his two children. Wide Sargasso Sea (1993), The Scarlet Letter (1995) and Bride Flight (2008) also feature an (arranged) marriage, a complex love affair with dark tones, and an exotic land. Similarly, in Sweet Land (2005) a woman travels from Germany to rural Minnesota, in A Silent Love (2004) she travels from Mexico to Montreal, in Postmark Paradise (2000) she comes from the Ukraine to Michigan, in Zandy's Bride (1974) a Scandinavian woman travels from Minneapolis to a ranch in California, and in Birthday Girl (2001) a Russian girl moves to England -- all to marry men they have never met. If by "similar", however, you are referring to movies where the real star is a musical instrument, consider Le violon rouge [The Red Violin] (1998), which follows the life of a violin over 300 years. Not so much the star of the movie, the piano still plays a big role in The Pianist (2002) and Amadeus (1984), two movies about the lives of two famous classical pianists, Wladislaw Szpilman and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.


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