7.6/10
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A mute woman is sent to 1850s New Zealand along with her young daughter and prized piano for an arranged marriage to a wealthy landowner, but is soon lusted after by a local worker on the plantation.

Director:

Jane Campion

Writer:

Jane Campion
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Popularity
2,030 ( 253)
Won 3 Oscars. Another 60 wins & 56 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Holly Hunter ... Ada
Harvey Keitel ... Baines
Sam Neill ... Stewart
Anna Paquin ... Flora
Kerry Walker Kerry Walker ... Aunt Morag
Geneviève Lemon Geneviève Lemon ... Nessie (as Genevieve Lemon)
Tungia Baker Tungia Baker ... Hira
Ian Mune ... Reverend
Peter Dennett Peter Dennett ... Head Seaman
Te Whatanui Skipwith Te Whatanui Skipwith ... Chief Nihe
Pete Smith ... Hone
Bruce Allpress ... Blind Piano Tuner
Cliff Curtis ... Mana
Carla Rupuha Carla Rupuha ... Heni (Mission Girl)
Mahina Tunui Mahina Tunui ... Mere (Mission Girl)
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Storyline

It is the mid-nineteenth century. Ada cannot speak and she 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 neighbor, 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 <ptd@ccadfa.cc.adfa.oz.au>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Music | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for moments of extremely graphic sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site

Release Date:

11 February 1994 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Piano See more »

Filming Locations:

Auckland, New Zealand See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$7,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$40,158,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby | Dolby (Dolby 5.1)

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

After Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties (1975), Jane Campion was only the second woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, and the first for an English language film, as the earlier film was Italian. The only other women to be so nominated are Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation (2003), Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker (2008), and Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird (2017). Bigelow is the only one of the five to have won the award. See more »

Goofs

Pianos of the period portrayed in the film were made almost entirely of wood, no metal framing at all, and the piano would therefore float, not sink. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Ada: 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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Connections

Featured in Siskel & Ebert: The Getaway/Blank Check/My Girl 2 (1994) See more »

Soundtracks

The Heart Asks Pleasure First/The Promise
Michael Nyman
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Magnificent, symbolic film masterpiece plays beautifully, like a piano.
27 June 1999 | by movieman9See all my reviews

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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