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Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Piano (1993)

The Piano is a movie that was released in 1993, and went to earn great critical acclaim, along with a bunch of Academy Awards. The movie was the brain-child of Jane Campion, who wrote and directed the movie (the movie was produced by Jan Chapman). It is a movie that is very different, with the depiction of the silent lady, who has a strong will, and who struggles for her own feelings in a land far away from her own. The movie was a big hit at the Oscars as well, with 3 awards (and a total of 8 nominations), along with a host of other movie awards as well (such as Palme d'Or (Golden Palm), BAFTA, Australian Film Institute, Golden Globe, etc). Holly Hunter, who won the Best Actress Oscar, was only the second actress in the non-silent movie era to get the Best Actress Award.

The Piano (1993)

Academy Awards Won:

* Best Actress (Holly Hunter)
* Best Screenplay - Original (Jane Campion)
* Best Supporting Actress (Anna Paquin)

Nominated:

* Best Cinematography (Stuart Dryburgh)
* Best Costume Design (Janet Patterson)
* Best Director (Jane Campion)
* Best Editing (Veronika Jenet)
* Best Picture

The movie is set in a harsh, rainy, mid-19th century New Zealand backwater. The subject is one that is not dealt with too often, making this an even more interesting movie - the movie deals with the wishes and aspirations of a young mail order bride who is not able to strike a bond with her husband, but instead becomes closer to her husband's neighbor.
Alistair Stewart (Sam Neill) lives in New Zealand in a frontier backwater and desires a bride. In Scotland, Ada McGrath (Holly Hunter), who has a daughter Flora (Anna Paquin) marriage is arranged with Alistair and she is sent via ship to New Zealand. Ada can speak, but remains silent, and has done so since she was six years old (the reasons for why she stopped speaking are never clearly outlined in the movie). She is able to make herself understood through sign language (with the help of her daughter), through writing, and through usage of the piano (something she loves). For some special people, they are able to understand her without her needing to use speech, and that includes her former teacher who was also Flora's father.
She reaches New Zealand along with Flora, and spends the night over there along with her luggage (including a piano - something that will form the center-piece of the movie). The next day Alisatair reaches there with a Maori crew to pick her up (having taken the help of his neighbor Baines (Harvey Keitel) to hire the crew). They find that they cannot carry everything, and so the piano is left on the beach. In the marriage, Ada stays distant from Alistair (displeasing him a lot), and her desire to go to the piano is very great, so she asks Flora to talk to Baines to take her to the piano. Baines agrees after some hesitation, and they spend a fine day at the beach; Baines is very impressed by Ada's playing of the piano. Soon, Baines suggests to Alistair that Alistair can have a piece of land that he wants, if he gives the piano along with lessons from Ada to Baines. Ada is shocked, but Alistair goes along with the deal.
Baines then offers a deal to Ada, he will sell her back the piano one key at a time (for a total of 36 black keys) if she lets him do what he likes when she is playing. This leads to a series of intimacies that Alistair soon discovers. Ada has grown much closer to Baines and further away from Alistair, and he furiously boards her inside the house. Baines also returns the piano in order that they can get away from this arrangement, but it may be too late already; they are in love with each other.
Baines is planning to leave soon, and Alistair visualizes a new beginning with Ada, when he discovers (via Flora) a love letter that Ada was sending to Baines in a piano key. He is furious and chops off Ada's index finger, with the promise of doing more if she continues to meet Baines.
Alisatair is soon able to read Ada's face, and discovers that she can only be at peace with Baines, and sends her away on a ship with Baines; at the start of this journey, in a beautiful scene, Ada gets the piano thrown into the water, goes down with it and then comes up again in a sort of re-birth. She settles into a life with Baines in a different town along with her daughter Flora.

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