The Piano (1993) Review

In the mid 19th century Ada McGrath a mute leaves Scotland to travel to New Zealand with her young daughter Flora, as she had been arranged to marry Alisdair Stewart. Having her beloved piano along with her the forests in the island are not what she was expecting.


Part of my ongoing Best Picture Project challenge I have had The Piano on my watchlists for some time now and now wondering why it actually took me so many years to catch up with it. Considering Anna Paquin was such a young Oscar winner I have always been curious to see her performance, Holly Hunter also won in a leading role with Jane Campion for best writing for a screenplay written directly for the screen.

Obviously the title of the film ‘The Piano’ makes it very clear that a piano is going to feature somewhat in the story, and it is used as a base for the majority of what Ava does. It becomes a symbol of the life she once had and lost and the harsh reality she now faces in a marriage with a man that she does not care for at all. Alisdair had no interest in getting the piano and despite the trauma it causes leaves it on the beach. He doesn’t even attempt to form any relationship with her or Flora. He had the true potential to be a horrific character, especially as he almost rapes Ada, not once but twice, not actually having the audacity to go through with it.

As that was going on Ada grew close to George Baines who was living on the island and got on very well with the natives, co-living with them and not having any problems with that. He understands that the piano means a lot to Ada and keeps it but asks that she teaches him to play, however as he falls in love with her he just wants to watch her play. This builds quite quickly to a physical relationship, but again it feels rather off and quite frankly pervy to begin with. But when we see Ada showing passion towards him and then this results in one of the most passionate sex scenes I have witnessed on screen, it was so intense and amazing.

Considering her mother does not speak Flora fills the gap and communicates with the people around them, being able to sign to one another she can then pass on the messages. She just wants to live a happier life and in all honesty for her to double cross her own mother at one point was quite shocking and not something I was expecting at all. A very confident young girl, who did not want to get to know her new father to begin with but then she senses the danger her mother is putting herself in.

While not conventional at all the romance and deep love that comes out of this story was not something I was expecting and it threw in some curveballs that made it rather shocking and more interesting as it progressed on. Also raising the point of how important music is in life, no matter which type or style you prefer it can make such a big difference to everything.

Holly Hunter was very good as Ada, as surely it cannot be easy taking on a role and not actually speaking at all. Having to rely more on her expressions and the use of sign language. Harvey Keitel has never come across as this attractive before has he? Well, not in anything I have seen him in. Sam Neill is on a fine line of being a truly horrible character, which some of his actions pushed towards but never with that follow through of making it over the line. I guess pity is one of the main things that he brings to the character. Anna Paquin blew me away, a truly incredible performance where she had so much confidence and looked to be having so much fun running around in the forest. Her facial expressions to go along with her delivery of the dialogue were so brilliant and she more deserved to win an Oscar for how much she owned the screen and stole each and every scene she appeared in.

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