the fresh films reviews

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The Piano (1993)

Jane Campion
123 minutes

Jan Chapman

Jane Campion

Cast includes:

Ada McGrath Holly Hunter
Stewart Sam Neill
George Baines Harvey Keitel
Flora McGrath Anna Paquin
Aunt Morag Kerry Walker -
Nessie Genevieve Lemon -
Hira Tungia Baker -



This is a captivating and powerful film from New Zealander Jane Campion, who had received rave reviews for An Angel at My Table in 1990. Here she has attracted internationally renowned actors Holly Hunter and Harvey Keitel to portray out-of-the-ordinary interpersonal relations and human emotions in alien circumstances: settler New Zealand at the turn of the century. Campion's observations are poignant; how the reserved and apathetically civilized Brits are stripped of their sophistication and become absurdities when they find themselves in a society in which they don't know the norms. And in contrast, how the natives stand as their sensible, uncivilized counterparts. Campion's implicit satire is based on the contrast between how civilized people are expected to behave, and how humans behave instinctively.

The lead character, the mute Ada (Holly Hunter), is full of complexities for us to interpret. And her young daughter Flora, played with amazing passion by Anna Paquin, is her complete opposite: uninhibited, expressive and unshaped by society. Her behaviour stirs up emotion, which is taboo in this world.

The Piano breaks free from narrative conventions and presents its uncontrived characters and relations with confidence. The most conspicuous among the latter is the erotic relationship between Ada and George Baines (Harvey Keitel). Their peculiar attraction and lust for each other is wonderfully explored. This primitive force will always bring people together, claims Campion. And the same goes for the item in the title, which represents the only other form of expression that Ada realizes is not inhibited by morals and etiquette.

English version: Copyright 12.02.2020 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review: Copyright 28
.10.1997 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang