on April 17, 2001
People seem to either love or hate this film, which is understandable because it wants to be approached on an emotional level more than an intellectual one. My boyfriend complained that none of the characters were compelling enough to care about, whereas I could see that the central character is, indeed, the piano and how everything revolves around its voice -- Ada's voice. Listening to her voice, being moved by it, is the key to the entire film.
One of the several engaging themes is that of who is on center stage at any given time. Count the number of times someone is watching someone else: Baines watching Ada play her piano on the beach, actors in a play looking through curtain eyeholes at the audience, the natives in the audience watching the play and believing the actors to be "real", Stewart looking through gaps in the planks to see his wife with another man, Flora watching Stewart attempt to destroy his wife's voice. (Interestingly, this is an assault not on the piano itself but on something more fundamental. And those who believe that Ada's gift of the piano key to Baines is a major faux pas perhaps don't realize that he will know exactly what that white key means though he can't read the words burned into it.)
The disturbing moments, and there are several, are entirely about the piano's (Ada's) voice and how these men attempt to either restrict or manipulate it to get what they want -- one endangering her sense of self while simultaneously using and liberating her, the other denying her self-expression while trying to be her protector and "a good man".
It's a very fine movie for those of a mind to listen.
on January 28, 2001
Even though Steven Spielberg released his magnum opus of Schindler's List in 1993 and walked away with the director's Oscar that year, Jane Campion became only the second woman in Academy history to be nominated for her superior achievement in direction of her work, The Piano, and was perhaps more deserving of the prestigious honor. Some are quick to dismiss this film as a "love triangle" story, and cannot fathom I would compare it to the scope and horror of the Holocaust. Read on, non-believers...
In numerous ways, Campion's direction is more inventive than those who were nominated that year, and more passionate.
The landscape of New Zealand is not merely a location, but comes to serve as a character when interacting with the people in the story. The tangled, mysterious bush of the wilderness becomes a metaphor for the complexity of emotion within the characters and the relationships in which they entwine themselves. The instrument of the piano and its songs come to serve as the soul of the heroine, Ada McGrath. Like the succulent rain ever-present in the film, the emotion literally drips from every frame of the film. This is where Campion most brilliantly succeeds.
The story and original screenplay, which was purely Campion's, not only delves into the odd love triangle, but examines the makeup of an oddly unconventional woman who choses to be silent, yet through everything she does, proves to not be a silent victim of a time when women were little more than possessions to be traded and bartered through a simple exchange of letters.
Even though Ada is signed over in marriage by her father precisely in this manner, we bravely witness a valiant soul who refuses to give love out of duty or obligation. The love which does flow from Ada is a turbulent force, and explores an eroticism not regularly shown in film, nor in a woman, nor in a woman of the late 19th century.
The film is complimented brilliantly by the superb acting of Oscar winners Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin, along with Harvey Keitel and Sam Neill. The sweeping score by Michael Nyman is otherworldly yet soothingly familiar as the compositions lull the viewer into Ada's world and mind. This is as flawless as a film can be. Do not reduce it to a mere love triangle between two men and a woman; at the film's core, the relationships explore issues much more intense and subliminal than that.
If you've ever questioned your feelings but weren't sure why, this film may bring you closer to understanding your own complexities within you. This film should be on everyone's top 10 list. I just wish all of Campion's films were this perfect!
on October 30, 2000
I initially rented this video so I could see another one of sexy Harvey Keitel's notoriously gratuitous full frontal nudity scenes - I'll be honest. But as I watched this film, I loved it more & more as the movie progressed! I remember seeing it with my older sister back in '93 & being bored out of my MIND - I was 14, talked all the way through it, & the only thing I remember about it was "the naked guy." Obviously, there is so much more TO this movie!
When I really think about it, it seems that, simply put, there are hardly any happy endings in romantic movies anymore - and cheap, tacky sex scenes in movies are all too common. But this movie was inspiring! I cannot express the amount of joy I felt when Baines ultimately joined Ada - I didn't expect it. (I figured he just came along for the boatride to drop her off back home until I saw the end) The passion Baines showed Ada (particularly in the scene where she slapped him) brought to mind what I loved so much about "The Last of the Mohicans." That walk-through-fires-just-to-touch-you kind of lustfulness, sensuality, & eroticism sends CHILLS down my spine. Jane Campion is brilliant - and gushing is not my style.
I loved this movie!!
on July 17, 2000
I was delighted to finally pick up this DVD after having seen this film several years ago. What I remembered most about this work was that it put me into a reflective mood for several weeks.
This film is likely to have you thinking about what things and people are most important in your life, what priorities do you put on them, and how living for what you truly want is the best way to live.
Ada arrives with her daughter on the beach in New Zealand. She has brought all kinds of things that are grossly impractical in the jungle like environment...one thing is her piano. Even though Ada is mute, we hear her thoughts via voice over and via her playing of the piano.
Ada is forced through the cirucumstances of her life to question what sort of relationship will make her happy -- that of her new spouse, a perfectly polite and supportive gentleman, and that of a rogue Harvey Keitel, one who goes to great lengths to prostitute Ada's need to express herself via her piano.
A strong performance by all, including Ada's daughter.
Eventually Ada makes her choice and leaves the audience wandering if they have made their choices appropriately.
This is a DVD worth owning, not one to rent. I would characterize this as a chick flick, but not one full of relationship talk -- after all, the main character is mute.
on June 23, 2000
It is the 1800's, after all, and the fate of women who produce children out of wedlock is expected to be grim--all the more so if she is "one of God's dumb creatures"; i.e., mute. So Ada's father probably thought he was doing her an enormous favor to get her married to a prosperous farmer in New Zealand. Sam Neill plays the farmer who probably does love Ada a bit, but who seems more concerned that he has been bilked in a deal when she did not return his ardor. Keitel is brilliant, as always, as Baines, the European who has "gone native" and now feels his own ethnic roots calling to him for apparently the first time in years. Paquin shows promise of great things to come as the daughter-turned-vengeful brat when her mother actually dares to show intense feelings for anyone other than her offspring.
In the end this is a tale of the redemption of the human spirit as Ada (Hunter) learns to love and trust a man again (albeit not her own husband), her husband finally learns the difference between family and property, and Baines finds his longings fulfilled through his ability to sacrifice satisfaction of his own needs for the safety and happiness of the woman he loves.
Fine performances by all involved, including the supporting cast of transplanted UK eccentrics who give just the right comic touch to a very weighty story.
A triumph of a film, the ending of which is slightly Chaucrian when Baines learns that the best way to have your way with a woman is to let her have her way first.
Well done, Campion! You created a masterpiece.
on February 15, 2000
"That Piano" was definitely one of the best films of 1993. The performances from the cast were spellbinding. Holly Hunter certainly deserved the Best Actress Ocsar she earned for this performance. It was a while since l had seen her really fit a character like a glove since her role in 1987 as a slightly cuckoo network television producer in "Broadcast News". Even though she doesn't speak a work throughout the entire movie, l got every emotion from her hands, face and her playing of the piano. Not many people know that Holly Hunter actually did a portion of her own piano playing in the film. Not all of it was done by the composer, Michael Nyman. Which leads my into the film's dramatic score which was both haunting and dream-like. Another point l would also like to make is that director Jane Campion is the first and only woman-director to be nominated for an Academy Award for this film. That is quite the feat in itself if you ask me. Newcomer Anna Paquin is mesmorizing as the young daughter who finds out about her mother's extra cirricular activities, if you know what l mean. Anna Paquin would go one to win the Oscar for best supporting actress at only the tender age of 11. Wow ! I highly recommend this tale of love, sex, betrayal and consequences.
on January 2, 2003
The Piano is truly a hypnotic film. It takes you away to a bleak, desolate New Zealand island where Ada McGrath, a shy woman who stopped speaking at the age of six is getting off a boat to meet her soon-to-be husband Stewart, arranged by her father, with her daughter Flora. Ada communicates through Flora, who can talk. Ada uses her old family piano as a way to express her feelings, and she needs it to remain calm and stable. The men could not get the piano up to Stewart's house, which frustated Ada immensly. Stewart's neighbor George Baines then brings it to his house after much of Ada's pleading and lets Ada play it in exchange for sexual favors.
This is an extremely intriguing, beautiful, unique romantic drama that all interested in film should definitely check out. It is one of my all time favorite movies.
Directed by Jane Campion
Starring Holly Hunter, Ann Paquin, Harvey Keitel, and Sam Neill
Rated R for moments of extremely graphic sexuality
on June 9, 1999
Campion's subtle drama about a young mute woman (Hunter) who is given a arranged marriage to New Zealand farmer (Neill) translates into an extraordinary personal story about love, communication from a woman's point of view. Hunter's beloved piano is the centre point of the film and symbolises the relationships between the characters. Like nearly all art house productions, its the acid test of how deep a person you really are, how you understand and are moved by the subtle undertones and friction between the characters like those seen in Visconti's equally brilliant "Death in Venice" and Hugh Hudson's "Chariots of Fire". The music fits the film perfectly and heightens the emotion, but the real stars are the actors, Kietel, Hunter and of course the young Paquin giving the performances of their carreers. Beautiful photography and locations add to the mystic.
on July 3, 2001
I own this movie and have watched it many times and have cried many times. A friend once asked me what my favorite part was and was quite stunned when i told him the part where Hollie Hunter's "husband" chopped off her finger. I told him it was because of the passion....the passion of the raging storm and the passions raging inside of the actors. Which, i believe were very well portrayed by all of the cast. I'm sure you've guessed by now that i am a very passionate person and i have a love of music, as well. This movied touched me tremendously....it portrayed passion to the extreme. It was a bit of softcore porn....but it was more erotic softcore porn. It was lovely and beautiful in the way it was portrayed. If you want to understand the true measure of a persons' loves...then i highly recommend owning this movie!!
on September 16, 2002
I have watched this movie at least a half dozen times since it's release and I am not tired of it yet. I am not an art house movie fan, but this one will either grab you by the throat and mesmerize you or it will totally turn you off. It is that strong a movie that there are no neutral reactions. My husband, who normally sleeps through my movies (even Schindler's List for God's sake!) could not sleep through this one. I have force fed it to a number of friends and the reaction is either gut-wrenching identifucation with the characters, or turning away in anger or disgust. By all means see it and judge for yourself, but don't plan on on easy movie experience. It is allegorical, romantic and harsh and beautiful and lovely to listen to and Holly Hunter considers it some of her best work. So do I.