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The Piano

From Academic Kids

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The_Piano.jpg
Cover to the 1998 DVD release of The Piano.

The Piano is a 1993 film which tells the story of a Scottish woman whose father sells her in marriage, by mail, to a New Zealand frontiersman and is shipped off with her young out-of-wedlock pre-adolescent daughter to live with him. She has not spoken a word since she was six years old, apparently without cause, and her daughter serves as translator for her sign language communications. She has mastered the piano, however, and obsessively plays it. Her new husband does not appreciate this fixation, however, and abandons the piano on the beach where she, her daughter and their belongings have been unceremoniously deposited by the ship which has transported them from Scotland. Furious with him, she enters into an affair with his best friend who, attracted to her, has rescued the piano to his own cabin to lure her into his company. Set in the mid-19th century in a rainy, muddy frontier New Zealand backwater, it stars Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill and Anna Paquin.

The movie was written and directed by Jane Campion, with an impressive score for the piano by Michael Nyman. Ms. Hunter played her own piano pieces for the film, and also served as teacher for Ms. Paquin, earning herself three different screen credits.

The film won the 1993 Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1994, the film won Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Holly Hunter), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Anna Paquin) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. Anna Paquin was the second youngest person to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. It was nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Director, Best Film Editing and Best Picture.

The film has nonetheless drawn some scorn from many who see it as misogynistic, if not entirely misanthropic: the woman appears to be a consummate narcissist who has simply decided since the age of 6 to refuse to speak, thus making her dependent on others for her care, while she amuses herself with her piano playing. She has no misgivings about sexually acting out when her husband proves to be less than ideal, believes that she literally mentally controlled her daughter's father into having sex with her, and kisses herself in the mirror. Additionally her husband a sexually shy, cold boor who is more interested in his logging operations than his new wife and child; and her paramour is an instant cuckolder of his best friend who has partly "gone native". The husband's pompous cousin and niece are portrayed by two obese actresses, and have been given the uncomplementary names of Nessie and Morag, as well.

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