This controversially erotic film from New Zealand established screenwriter-director Jane Campion as a universally recognized talent. Holly Hunter stars as Ada, a mute 19th-century woman sent to New Zealand in an arranged marriage with a patriarchal landowner (Sam Neill). She brings along her daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin), and tries to also bring her beloved piano, much to the consternation of her new husband, who abandons the piano on a beach. Artistically and emotionally frustrated, Ada finds herself experiencing an erotic awakening when Baines (Harvey Keitel), an illiterate settler covered with Maori tattoos, rescues her piano, buys it from her husband, then strikes a strange bargain with Ada that gradually leads to her sexual awakening--and to an explosive confrontation.
Jaw-droppingly beautfiul with its purple and green palette of untamed New Zealand scenery, THE PIANO is both a ravishing love story and a psychosexual fairy tale on a par with WUTHERING HEIGHTS and JANE EYRE. Featuring a haunting piano score by Michael Nyman and brilliant performances, THE PIANO is a masterpiece, considered one of the best films of the 1990s.
1993 - Cannes - Palme d'Or Winner
1993 - Academy Awards - Best Actress Winner
1993 - Cannes - Best Actress Winner
1993 - Academy Awards - Best Supporting Actress Winner
1993 - Academy Awards - Best Original Screenplay Winner
A mute woman who expresses herself through her piano arrives in 1800s New Zealand to be a lonely man's mail-order bride. When he leaves her piano on the beach, a local man offers to pay to have it taken to his home. In exchange for slight romantic advances, he sells the piano back to her key by key, leading to a crescendo of passion and jealousy between the men.
Filmed on location in New Zealand. THE PIANO tied with Chen Kaige's FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE for the Palme d'Or at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. Jane Campion was the first female to ever win this prestigious award. The film has scenes in which the dialogue is in Maori and in which Ada communicates with her daughter in sign language; these scenes are subtitled. Holly Hunter did the solo piano playing herself (for the soundtrack as well as for the camera) and is also credited as piano coach for the production. Harvey Keitel has a full-frontal nude scene in this film. Also in 1993 he appeared in Abel Ferrara's BAD LIEUTENANT, in which he also had a full-frontal nude scene. This was a big year for Keitel's career as a result of these two critically praised films, and homage was paid in the press to his fearlessly "naked" style of acting. THE PIANO won the following awards in 1993: The American Film Institute Awards for Best Acievement in Cinematography (Stuart Dryburgh), Costume Design (Janet Patterson), Editing (Veronika Jenet), Production Design (Andrew McAlpine), Sound (Gethin Creagh, Tony Johnson, Annabelle Sheehan, Lee Smith, Peter Townend); Best Actor (Harvey Keitel), Best Actress (Holly Hunter), Best Director, and Best Picture. Holly Hunter also won the Goldon Globe, Boston Society of Film Critics Award, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, National Society of Film Critics, the London Film Critics Circle, the New York Film Critic's Circle, and the Chicago Film Critic's Association Award for Best Actress, as well as the Best Actress Award at Cannes. Campion won for Best Screenplay at the National Socitety of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and the Australian Film Institute. THE PIANO won the Independent Spirit Award and Cesar Award, the Chicago Film Critics Association for Best Foregin Film. Michael Nyman won the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Australian Film Institute Awards for Best Score. Ken Durey and Waynne Rugg were the special effects coordinators and Tad Pride created the underwater special effects; Peter Long did the title design; Mary-Anne Schultz did the film's choreography; John Harle, David Roach, and Andrew Findon played saxophone on the film's soundtrack. Nokiro Watanabe, who did the makeup and hair, is married to actor Sam Neill, who plays Stewart; she is a third-generation Japanese makeup artist.
"...A severely beautiful, mysterious movie that, as if by magic, liberates the romantic imagination....[The] principal performances are extraordinary..." - 10/16/1993 New York Times, p.13
"...An exquisitely romantic personal ode to creativity..." - Recommended - 06/01/1994 Premiere, p.120
"...Carefully rendered....Stratharin puts in a very fine turn..." - 05/10/1993 Variety
"...Campion manages her story and symbols beautifully, and evokes harrowing performances from her four leads..." - 07/01/1993 Film Comment, p.70-3
"...The performances are as original as the characters....It is one of those rare movies that is not just about a story, or some characters, but about a whole universe of feeling..." - 11/19/1993 Chicago Sun-Times, p.42
"The lighting is crepuscular, the costumes heavy and the atmosphere brooding." - 03/01/2006 Sight and Sound, p.90