The Piano

  • 15
  • Jane Campion (1993)
  • Aus (SUB)
  • 120 min
Film Review
Reviewed By
5 out of 5

Inspired by Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, this superbly staged tale of passion and obsession won writer/director Jane Campion an Oscar for best screenplay. Like her earlier films Sweetie and An Angel at My Table (a three-hour biopic of writer Janet Frame), this period drama focuses on a woman whom society has dismissed as disabled. However, Holly Hunter's Ada McGrath (who chose to stop speaking at the age of six) can communicate through her daughter Flora (Anna Paquin), and the piano she brings with her to New Zealand when she is sent from Scotland to marry local landowner Sam Neill. The ability to make contact is one of the film's key themes. Ada's new husband can read her hurriedly written notes, but he does not appreciate her music and won't take the trouble to learn either her sign language or the local Maori dialect. The illiterate Baines (Harvey Keitel), on the other hand, has fully embraced the customs of his adopted home and, belying his uncouth outward appearance, proves to be much more tender and passionate than his social superiors. With their tight corsets and unwieldy skirts, the fashions of Victorian times are synonymous in the film with women's repression. Yet while Ada's clothing (expertly designed by Janet Patterson) is an inconvenience in the bush and nearly costs her her life, it saves her from her husband's advances and, eventually, proves the means to her liberation. There's a masterly score by Michael Nyman and splendid photography from Stuart Dryburgh, and Campion coaxes stupendous performances from Hunter and Paquin, who both won Oscars - Neill and Keitel were shamefully overlooked.

Plot Summary

A mute Scottish widow travels to New Zealand with her daughter, and enters into a loveless arranged marriage. Her one means of self-expression is her piano, which her husband sells to a gruff settler who has adopted Maori culture. He allows her to play the instrument, and through their shared love of music, a passionate affair develops. Period drama, starring Oscar-winners Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin. With Harvey Keitel and Sam Neill.

Cast and crew


Holly Hunter
Harvey Keitel
Sam Neill
Anna Paquin
Aunt Morag
Kerry Walker
Geneviève Lemon
Tungia Baker
Ian Mune
Head seaman
Peter Dennett
Chief Nihe
Te Whatanui Skipwith


Jane Campion

Other Information

English, Maori +subtitles
Theatrical distributor: 
Entertainment Film Dists Ltd
Some violence, swearing, nudity and sex scenes.
Available on video, DVD and BluRay
Certificate 15