The Piano (1993)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Drama, Feminist Film, Period Film  |   Release Date - Nov 12, 1993 (USA - Limited), Feb 11, 1994 (USA - Expanding)  |   Run Time - 120 min.  |   Countries - American Samoa, Australia, France, New Zealand  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Lucia Bozzola

Not just another costume drama, Jane Campion's The Piano (1993) lushly visualizes the emotional complexities of a 19th century woman's sexual awakening. Mute in a world that silences women, Ada has to find other means to express her responses to the untamed New Zealand landscape, her stiff husband Stewart, and the sensualist Baines. The elliptical narrative minimizes rational explanations in favor of visceral and emotional effects, often structured around parallels between Ada and the natural environment that surrounds her. While Ada's cumbersome 19th century clothes are initially at odds with the muddy forest, Campion reveals Ada's adaptability with a hoop skirt tent, and her reservoirs of passion with the parallel between braids of her hair and forest vines. Stewart, living amidst burnt-out trees, cannot fathom Ada's attachment to her piano, while natural man Baines understands her ardor when he hears and watches her on the open beach. Baines' piano blackmail is transformed into Ada's only path to selfhood; it is a meeting of two rebellious minds and bodies glimpsed voyeuristically by a culture that cannot comprehend its own erotic instincts. Co-winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, The Piano received eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, winning Best Original Screenplay for Campion, Best Supporting Actress for Anna Paquin's resentful daughter, and Best Actress for Holly Hunter's finely tuned Ada.