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The Piano


A mute woman along with her young daughter, and her prized piano, are sent to 1850s New Zealand for an arranged marriage to a wealthy landowner, and she's soon lusted after by a local worker on the plantation.

Release Year: 1993

Rating: 7.5/10 (36,099 voted)

Critic's Score: 89/100

Jane Campion

Stars: Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill

It is the mid-nineteenth century. Ada is a mute who has a young daughter, Flora. In an arranged marriage she leaves her native Scotland accompanied by her daughter and her beloved piano. Life in the rugged forests of New Zealand's South Island is not all she may have imagined and nor is her relationship with her new husband Stewart. She suffers torment and loss when Stewart sells her piano to a neighbour, George. Ada learns from George that she may earn back her piano by giving him piano lessons, but only with certain other conditions attached. At first Ada despises George but slowly their relationship is transformed and this propels them into a dire situation.


Holly Hunter

Ada McGrath

Harvey Keitel

George Baines

Sam Neill

Alisdair Stewart

Anna Paquin

Flora McGrath

Kerry Walker

Aunt Morag

Geneviève Lemon


(as Genevieve Lemon)

Tungia Baker


Ian Mune


Peter Dennett

Head Seaman

Te Whatanui Skipwith

Chief Nihe

Pete Smith


Bruce Allpress

Blind Piano Tuner

Cliff Curtis


Carla Rupuha

Heni – Mission Girl

Mahina Tunui

Mere – Mission Girl

Release Date: 12 November 1993

Filming Locations: Auckland, New Zealand

Box Office Details

Budget: $7,000,000


Gross: $40,158,000

Technical Specs



Did You Know?


Despite winning an Oscar at a young age, Anna Paquin admitted to David Letterman in 2009 that she recently watched the film for the first time.


When the boat leaves the island, Ada trails her hand in the water, which is still and calm. On long shots, it is foaming from the action of the oars, and the boat on the water.


[first lines]

The voice you hear is not my speaking voice – -but my mind's voice. I have not spoken since I was six years old. No one knows why – -not even me. My father says it is a dark talent, and the day I take it into my head to stop breathing will be my last…

User Review

Magnificent, symbolic film masterpiece plays beautifully, like a piano.


There are very few female directors in the film industry that have been
given proper acknowledgment or had their works introduced to mainstream
filmgoers. Jane Campion is one of these precious few, a director who
carefully paces and sculpts her works so that they magnificently flow like
musical interlude. "The Piano" is her ultimate masterpiece, a film of such
simplicity, described with calm and tense complexity. Holly Hunter
an Oscar for her fascinating performance as Ada, a mute woman who is
into an arranged marriage with a New Zealand landowner, played
by Sam Neill, a native Australian actor himself. Ada journeys to New
with her young daughter (Anna Paquin, also an Oscar-winner that year), few
other possessions, and her treasured piano, a part of her that amplifies
voice that she cannot express through vocal communication.

I believe it would be wrong to assume that any of the characters are
martyrs in this tragic story, nor would it be right to think Sam Neill's
character a villain. You may think this is crazy, but I think the piano
itself serves as both a good and bad omen for all that are involved. I
relate it to a "Pandora's box" of sorts, a treasure that exposes all the
evil and sin in the world, but which also provides hope as well. The piano
is Ada's sounding box, a tool that allows her to escape from a world that
does not understand her, but that also threatens her moral compass,
her from marital conventions and forces her to lose herself.

The performances in "The Piano" are particularly good, especially
Hunter's. It is interesting to note that all of Hunter's piano playing in
the film is actually Hunter herself performing in front of us. You can
visually and aurally feel the mood of Hunter's character through the music
she plays. We the audience lose ourselves right along with her, lost upon
sea of music. We see why Keitel becomes enamored by her, and why Neill
becomes overcome with jealousy and betrayal. Not many films would allow us
to enter the emotions of all three main characters, but this film is truly
an exception.

Rarely do we witness real beauty captured on film. "The Piano" is such
visually stunning film, it's almost intoxicating how its atmosphere sweeps
across the screen. This landscape is equaled by the performances, bringing
understanding and mystery to this wonder. Sometimes symbolism of this
can be distracting to an audience. "The Piano" dares to follow this
path, and hits a bullseye with full emotional force.
Rating: Four stars.