THE PIANO is a very unusual, enigmatic and haunting film. To say anything less would be incredulous. It is a story set in some remote coastal hills of a very bleak eighteenth century New Zealand overrun by dense jungle, mud, the elements and crude natives. Ada (Holly Hunter) and her young mischievously meddlesome daughter Flora (Anna Paquin) arrive on the New Zealand beach to meet Stewart (Sam Neill) whom has arranged to marry Ada. Ada, as we discover in the prolog is a woman who has not spoken since she was 6 years old. She is not only mute but strangely introverted and repressed. A piano, which Ada has brought with her, is her only means of expression. The ex-seaman ex-whaler Baines (Harvey Keitel) is a rather crude looking character who becomes enchanted by Ada's piano, which has been left on the beach. He retrieves it, buys it and then has Ada barter for its return setting the conflict of personalities and their repressed feelings into motion. Ada's mute playing of the piano is juxtaposed by her piercing dark eyes focusing from her face shrouded in ever so pale white skin. Her looks are riveting and disturbing. The image of Paquin's face is unnerving. As the film progresses we see that the primary characters are truly misunderstood from what our initial impressions had ascertained them to be. This is an exceptional film that you have to watch and listen to closely because of its very subtle nature that envelops your senses. The characters and the actors that portray them are brilliantly presented. Stuart Dryburgh's cinematography is equally important because the images on the screen take on a life and spirit of their own in this haunting film.