Directed and written for the screen by the formidable Jane Campion, The Piano (1993) is a New Zealand drama film about a mute piano player and her daughter. Winner of three Oscars (Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay), and nominated for five more, The Piano is a moody and contemplative film with a strong directorial backbone. Its synopsis is as follows:
A mute woman along with her young daughter, and her prized piano, are sent to 1850s New Zealand for an arranged marriage to a wealthy landowner, and she’s soon lusted after by a local worker on the plantation. (source)
The Piano is quite notable not only for its slew of Oscar nominations, and rightly so, but is also notable for some amazing performances by its cast. The performances by Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin as mother and daughter Ada and Flora are truly wonderful, with Hunter’s performance as a mute woman furiously attempting to communicate with others a definite highlight. It is also delightful to see a young Anna Paquin act the heck out of her role; being approximately 10-11 years old, but looking much younger, her precocious talent is so exciting to watch, even in the film’s darkest moments. Holly Hunter, Anna Paquin, Sam Neill and Harvey Keitel are an excellent ensemble cast.
The Piano is one of those films where although I wasn’t completely impressed by the film’s story content, I found many other things to enjoy. Perhaps it’s just me, as romantic films are never my thing. Despite the film’s beautiful screenplay, I found most of the story quite problematic in terms of its treatment of Ada’s seduction by the brutish George, which initially presented as yet another abusive relationship for her character. However, I was floored by the film’s script, acting, and visuals enough to enjoy the film, and it was the work by New Zealand cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh which kept my eyes glued to this film. Dryburgh makes use of the sodden and muddy New Zealand landscape to great effect; the landscape’s wet weather being complemented by blue visual tones which match the story’s themes. There is an emphasis on water, and the relative lack of protection from the landscape, weather, and wilderness, which is then visually compared with Ada’s calm and tranquil nature whilst playing the piano, rendered in warm tones. Overall, the film is a work of visual art, both due to Campion’s skillful direction, and Dryburgh’s stunning photography.
Below is a selection of my most favourite shots from The Piano, although I would say that the film is a lot more beautiful when viewed in motion. As always, the shots have been mixed up to avoid story spoilers.
Watch the trailer here.