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Film Date :   19 May 1993
Genre :   Family Drama   
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The piano

The Pianois a 1993 drama film about a mute pianist and her daughter, set during the mid-19th century in a rainy, muddy frontier backwater on the west coast of New Zealand . The film was written and directed by Jane Campion , and stars Holly Hunter , Harvey Keitel , Sam Neill , and Anna Paquin . It features a score for the piano by Michael Nyman which became a bestselling soundtrack album . Hunter played her own piano pieces for the film, and also served as sign language teacher for Paquin, earning three screen credits. The film was an international co-production by Australian producer Jan Chapman with the French company Ciby 2000.

The Pianowas a commercial and critical success, grossing more than $40 million, against its $7 million budget. Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin received high praise for their role as Ada McGrath and Flora McGrath. At the 66th Academy Awards ,The Pianowon three awards: Best Actress for Hunter, Best Supporting Actress for Paquin, and Best Original Screenplay . Paquin, who at the time was 11 years old, became the second youngest ever Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner, after Tatum O'Neal , who won the award in 1974 forPaper Moon, at 10.

The Pianotells the story of a mute Scotswoman , Ada McGrath ( Holly Hunter ), whose father sells her into marriage to a New Zealand frontiersman, Alistair Stewart ( Sam Neill ). She is shipped off along with her young daughter Flora McGrath ( Anna Paquin ). The voice that the audience hears is not her speaking voice, but her mind's voice. Ada has not spoken a word since she was six years old, expressing herself instead through her piano playing and through sign language for which her daughter has served as the interpreter. Ada cares little for the mundane world, occupying herself for hours every day with the piano. It is never made explicitly clear why she ceased to speak. Flora, it is later learned, is the product of a relationship with a teacher whom Ada believed she could control with her mind, making him love her, but who "became frightened and stopped listening," and thus left her.

Ada, Flora, and their belongings, including the piano, are deposited on a New Zealand beach by the ship's crew against her angry objections. As there is no one there to meet them, they spend the night alone, sheltering under a tiny tent made of a hoop skirt frame. The following day, Alistair arrives with a Māori crew and his friend Baines ( Harvey Keitel ), a fellow forester and a retired sailor, who has adopted many of the Māori customs, including tattooing his face and socializing with the Māori instead of his own race (save Alistair). There are insufficient men to carry everything and Alistair abandons the piano, again eliciting objections from Ada.

Alistair proves to be a shy and diffident man, who is jokingly called "old dry balls" by his Māori cohorts. He tells Ada that there is no room in his small house for the piano. Ada, in turn, makes no effort to befriend him and continues to try to be reunited with her piano. Unable to communicate with Alistair, she goes, with Flora, to Baines and asks to be taken to the piano. He agrees, and the three spend the day as she plays tunes on the beach. While he socially allies himself with the Māori, Baines has steadfastly refused any sexual activity with Māori women. But he clearly finds Ada attractive due to her passion for music. Baines eventually retrieves the instrument and suggests that Alistair trade it — and lessons from Ada — for some land that Alistair wants. Alistair consents, oblivious to the budding attraction between Ada and Baines. She is surprised to find that he has had the piano put into perfect tune after its rough journey. He asks to simply listen rather than learn to play himself, and then offers to let her buy the piano back, one key at a time, by letting him do "things he likes" while she plays. Ada reluctantly agrees, as she is attracted to Baines. Ada and Alistair have had no sexual, or even mildly affectionate, interaction even though they are by now formally married.

Baines is sexually aroused by Ada's playing to the point that he openly approaches her. Finally, she yields to her own desire one afternoon, and she and Baines have intercourse. Alistair finally begins to suspect the love affair and after discovering them, he angrily boards up his home with Ada inside when he goes off to work on his timberland. After that interlude, Ada avoids Baines and feigns affection with Alistair, though her caresses only serve to frustrate him more because when he makes a move to touch her in return, she pulls away. Before Alistair departs on his next journey, he asks Ada if she will go to see Baines — she shakes her head no — and he tells her he trusts that she won't go to him while he's gone.

Soon after, Ada sends her daughter with a package for Baines, containing a single piano key with an inscribed love declaration that says "dear George, you will have my heart, Ada McGrath". Flora has begun to accept Alistair as her "papa" and is angered by her mother's infidelity. She brings the piano key instead to Alistair. After reading the love note burnt onto the piano key, Alistair furiously returns home and cuts off Ada's index finger with an axe to deprive her of the ability to play her piano. He then sends Flora to Baines with the severed finger wrapped in cloth, with the message that if Baines ever attempts to see Ada again, he will chop off more fingers. After Ada recovers from her injury, Alistair sends her and Flora away with Baines and dissolves their marriage. They depart from the same beach on which she first landed in New Zealand. While being rowed to the ship with her baggage and the piano tied onto a Maori longboat, Ada feels that the piano is ruined as she can no longer play and insists that Baines throw the piano overboard. As it sinks, she deliberately puts her foot into the loop of rope trailing overboard. She is rapidly pulled deep underwater connected by the rope to the piano — but then she changes her mind and kicks free to be pulled back into the boat.

In an epilogue , she describes her new life with Baines and Flora in Nelson , where she has started to give piano lessons in their new home, and her severed finger has been replaced with a silver finger made by Baines. Ada says that she imagines her piano in its grave in the sea, and herself suspended above it, which "lulls me to sleep." Ada has also started to take speech lessons in order to learn how to speak again. The film closes with the Thomas Hood quote, from his poem "Silence," which also opened the film: "There is a silence where hath been no sound. There is a silence where no sound may be in the cold grave under the deep deep sea."

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