Release year: 1993
Director: Jane Campion
Screenwriter: Jane Campion
Starring: Holly Hunter, Anna Paquin, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill, Kerry Walker, Cliff Curtis, Geneviéve Lemon, Tungia Baker
Ratings: 3 Oscars: Best Actress (Holly Hunter), Best Supporting Actress (Anna Paquin), Best Original Screenplay. 5 Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Costume, Best Film Editing. 1 Golden Globe: Best Actress Drama (Holly Hunter). 5 Golden Globe nominations: Best Picture Drama, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Anna Paquin), Best Screenplay, Best Original Score. 2 Cannes Awards: Best Actress (Holly Hunter), Palme d’Or.
Mute Ada (Holly Hunter) expresses herself through her beloved piano and sign language. When an arranged marriage brings her to New Zealand with her daughter Flora (Anna Paquin) she finds it hard to open up to her husband (Sam Neill) who doesn’t understand her need to express her emotions through music. Instead she gets dangerously involved with local plantation worker Baines (Harvey Keitel) who listens.
The movie that made New Zealand born Jane Campion the first woman to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes is a strong character-driven drama with stellar performances, especially by its lead: Holly Hunter (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, 2000); A raw and commited performance that allowed Hunter to make use of her talents as a piano player (she plays all the tunes in the movie herself). Wearing black and barely showing a single smile, her Ada carries the weight of the movie on her mute shoulders making her presence strong throughout. Her only true competition to stealing the show is a young Paquin (X-Men, 2000) who is so brimming with talent it is astonishing to think of it being her début feature, with her perfectly catching the blend between loyal child and spoiled brat. As the men we see Neill (Jurassic Park, 1993) and Keitel (Reservoir Dogs, 1992) who both find themselves subcumbing to the silent power of Ada in a world where men are usually in charge, and react in each their way to devastating results. It is at once a beautiful romatic drama as well as an emotionally touching study of human nature, their desires and needs, but most of all it is a visually stunning, well-crafted and well-acted powerful piece of work bound to be appreciated now and in the future for its compexity which allows it to be both amazingly beautiful and heartbreakingly horrible.
As a true triumph for the often overlooked females in the movie business The Piano was the first movie to win Palme d’Or at Cannes and only the second one to gain an Oscar nomination for a female director. Of its 3 Oscars, two went to females.
Picture copyrights: Miramax