Winner of the 1993 Cannes' Palme d'Or for Best Film and Best Actress for Holly Hunter, Jane Campion's third feature was widely hailed as a cinematic masterpiece. With Michael Nyman providing the music, the story centres around Ada (Hunter), a mute Scottish woman sent to New Zealand with her daughter (Anna Paquin) for an arranged marriage to lonely landowner Stewart (Sam Neill). When she arrives with her beloved piano in tow, Stewart forces her to leave it on the beach rather than lug it through the jungle. The estate manager, Baines (Harvey Keitel), watches and listens in amazement when Ada visits the beach to play and subsequently he makes a deal with Stewart to keep it at his own house. Baines is enchanted by both the piano and Ada and eventually makes a bargain of sexual favours whereby Ada can win back the instrument.
Jane Campion's The Piano
struck a deep chord (if you'll excuse the expression) with audiences in 1993, who were mesmerised by the film's rich, dreamlike imagery. It is the story of a Scottish woman named Ada (Holly Hunter), who has been mute since age 6 because she simply chose not to speak. Ada travels with her daughter Flora (Anna Paquin) and her beloved piano to a remote spot on the coast of New Zealand for an arranged marriage to a farmer (Sam Neill). She gives piano lessons to a gruff neighbor (Harvey Keitel) who has Maori tattoos on his face, and, well, things develop from there. The picture takes on a powerful dream logic that simply defies synopsis. It's a breathtakingly beautiful and original achievement from Campion, a unique stylist. The Piano
won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and Oscars for Hunt, Paquin and Campion's screenplay. --Jim Emerson