The Piano


2h 1m 1993
The Piano

Brief Synopsis

A mute woman and her daughter adjust to life in the wilds of New Zealand.

Photos & Videos

The Piano - Movie Poster

Film Details

Also Known As
El Piano, Piano, Pianot, leçon de piano
MPAA Rating
Genre
Romance
Drama
Historical
Period
Release Date
1993
Production Company
Atlab-Gold Coast, Australia; Eastman Kodak; Opticals & Graphics; Spectrum Films
Distribution Company
MIRAMAX; Bac Films Distribution; Belga Films; Buena Vista International; Concorde Films; Entertainment Film Distributors, Ltd.; Filmcoopi Zurich Ag; Finnkino Oy; Live Home Video; MIRAMAX; Mikado Film; Panasia; Pandora Film Produktion; Pandora Films; Village Roadshow Limited
Location
Tarankaki, New Zealand; Auckland, New Zealand

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 1m

Synopsis

Set in 1851, a mute Scottish woman arrives in colonial New Zealand for an arranged marriage, with her precocious young daughter and beloved piano in tow. When her practical new husband refuses to transport the piano to their home, the woman reluctantly agrees to a sexual relationship with a neighbor as a means of gaining access to the instrument.

Crew

Alison Barrett

Casting (Casting)

Alun Bollinger

Camera Operator

Robert Bruce

Safety Officer

Robert Bruce

Fight/ Stunt Coordinator

Steve Burgess

Foley Artist

Arthur Cambridge

Grading

Jane Campion

Screenplay (1994 Academy Award Winner For Best Original Screenplay)

Jan Chapman

Producer

Jeanine Chialvo

Dialogue Editor

Roger Cowland

Other

Gethin Creagh

Sound Recorder

Meryl Cronin

Set Decorator

Lynn-maree Danzey

Continuity

Barbara Darragh

Wardrobe Coordinator

Alain Depardieu

Executive Producer

Stuart Dryburgh

Dp/Cinematographer

Stuart Dryburgh

Director Of Photography

Ken Durey

Special Effects Coordinator

Michael J Dutton

Recording Engineer

Colin Englert

Researcher

Colin Englert

Epk Director

Susie Figgis

Casting Director (Casting Direc)

Andy Findon

Saxophone

Moira Grant

Production Coordinator

Mark Grenfell

Props Buyer

John Harle

Saxophone

Rob Hunter

Photography

Geoff Jamieson

Key Grip

Veronika Jenet

Editor

Tony Johnson

Sound Recordist

Ian Jones

Steadicam Operator (Steadic)

Don Jowsey

Gaffer

Gregory Keen

Supervising Art Director

Gerry Long

Foley Artist

Peter Long

Title Designer

Peter Long

Researcher

Keith Mackenzie

Production Accountant

Billy Mackinnon

Script Editor

John Mahaffie

Steadicam Operator (Stead)

Andrew Mcalpine

Production Designer

Temuera Morrison

Other

Tim Murton

Head Scenic Artist

Selwyn Muru

Maori Dialogue & Advisor

Selwyn Muru

Screenplay

Michael Nyman

Music

Michael Nyman

Conductor

Gary O'grady

Dialogue Editor

Stephen O'rourke

Post-Production Supervisor

Martin Oswin

Special Effects Mixer

Alexander Paton

Boom Operator

Janet Patterson

Costume Designer

Philippe Pouyaud

Other

Pierre Rissient

Special Thanks

David Roach

Saxophone

Diana Rowan

Casting Director (Casting Di)

Waynne Rugg

Special Effects Coordinator

Mary-anne Schultz

Choreographer

Annabelle Sheehan

Supervising Adr Editor

Sally Sherratt

Location Manager

Waihoroi Shortland

Maori Dialogue & Advisor

Waihoroi Shortland

Screenplay

Kirston Shouler

Art Department Coordinator

Chloe Smith

Production Manager

Lee Smith

Sound Designer

Rachel Stace

Publicist

Vickie Thomas

Casting

Peter Townsend

Special Effects Editor

Mark Turnbull

1st Assistant Director

Mark Turnbull

Associate Producer

Nokiro Watanabe

Hair & Makeup Supervisor

Film Details

Also Known As
El Piano, Piano, Pianot, leçon de piano
MPAA Rating
Genre
Romance
Drama
Historical
Period
Release Date
1993
Production Company
Atlab-Gold Coast, Australia; Eastman Kodak; Opticals & Graphics; Spectrum Films
Distribution Company
MIRAMAX; Bac Films Distribution; Belga Films; Buena Vista International; Concorde Films; Entertainment Film Distributors, Ltd.; Filmcoopi Zurich Ag; Finnkino Oy; Live Home Video; MIRAMAX; Mikado Film; Panasia; Pandora Film Produktion; Pandora Films; Village Roadshow Limited
Location
Tarankaki, New Zealand; Auckland, New Zealand

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 1m

Award Wins

Best Actress

1993
Holly Hunter

Best Original Screenplay

1993

Best Supporting Actress

1993
Anna Paquin

Award Nominations

Best Cinematography

1993

Best Costume Design

1993
Janet Patterson

Best Director

1993
Jane Campion

Best Editing

1993
Veronika Jenet

Best Picture

1993
Jan Chapman

Articles

The Piano


After attending film school in Australia and making several short films and two well-regarded features, New Zealand-born Jane Campion gained international acclaim as one of the most strikingly original writer-directors of the 1990s with her third feature, The Piano (1993), which became one of the iconic films of the decade. In the 1850s, mute mail order bride Ada McGrath arrives in New Zealand with her young daughter Flora and her beloved piano. Ada's dour Scotsman husband Stewart refuses to transport the piano over rough terrain to their home, and trades it to Baines, a fellow settler who has adopted Maori ways. Ada demands that Baines return the piano and he refuses, but they strike a bargain that allows her access to her instrument and draws the two together, with devastating consequences.

Campion is a "pakeha," a New Zealander of white European descent. She studied anthropology and painting before going to film school, and grew up in an era of increased feminist awareness. All of these influences are evident in The Piano. In an interview, Campion said the film was inspired by "Gothic Romantic writing," and "is very sophisticated, easily the most adult or complex material I've attempted. It's the first film I've written that has a proper story, and it was a big struggle for me to write." In a different interview, she commented on the film's eroticism: "I was trying to re-examine what erotic is. To see if you can create it in a half-centimeter square flesh."

Sigourney Weaver was Campion's first choice for Ada, but she was unavailable. The director also reportedly considered Isabelle Huppert and Jennifer Jason Leigh. But Holly Hunter was determined to win the role. "I'd never read a script with that kind of power," she later recalled, "and actually, have not read one since...it was such a private investigation of the psyche of a person. It's still probably my most fulfilling experience." Campion, who has said that Ada's character was partially inspired by the intensity of artist Frida Kahlo's face in her self-portraits, said Hunter's fierce visage convinced her. "In Holly's audition tape, her gaze was just stupendous."

Hunter also offered another talent -- she was an accomplished pianist, who had taken piano lessons since the age of nine, and had initially aspired to a musical career. Campion wanted the piano to be Ada's "voice," and composer Michael Nyman talked with the director about what Ada is expressing, researched period music, listened to tapes of Hunter playing Bach and Brahms, and composed what he called "reflective, lyrical" music for her to play. When Hunter won an Oscar® for her performance, she said in her acceptance speech that Nyman's score helped her find her character and thanked her first piano teacher.

Another skill came less easily to Hunter. Although rudimentary forms of sign language were used during the era depicted in the film, it was not yet codified. Instead, Hunter worked with a sign language interpreter to devise a simple signing method that Ada and her daughter might have used, and taught it to Anna Paquin, who played her daughter.

Paquin, whose only acting experience prior to The Piano was playing a skunk in a school play, won the role of Flora when she tagged along with her older sister to an open audition for the role in Wellington, New Zealand. Campion thought the petite Paquin was the right size to be Hunter's child, and was impressed with how well she read a complicated monologue. Paquin won the part from among five thousand candidates. She later won an Academy Award®, as Best Supporting Actress. At age 11, she was the second youngest actress (after Tatum O'Neal) to win the statuette in that category.

Campion herself earned two Oscar® nominations, for directing (the second woman, after Lina Wertmuller to earn a nod) and writing The Piano, taking home the writing award. She was the first woman to win the Palme D'Or for directing at the Cannes Film Festival; the film also shared the top film award with Farewell My Concubine and Hunter won the best actress award at Cannes.

Reviews for the film were ecstatic. Vincent Canby wrote in the New York Times, "Here's a mysterious movie that, as if by magic, liberates the romantic imagination...Ms Campion somehow suggests states of mind you've never before recognized on the screen." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times called it "as peculiar and haunting as any film I've seen...It is one of those rare movies that is not just about a story, or some characters, but about a whole universe of feeling." In his Biographical Dictionary of Film, historian David Thomson agreed: "The sense of place, of spirit, and of silence is Wordsworthian...The Piano is a great film in an age that has nearly forgotten such things."

Campion and Hunter reunited for the television miniseries Top of the Lake (2013), in which Hunter plays a guru to a group of women in New Zealand. In a joint interview, looking back on The Piano after twenty years, both women were proud of the film, but Campion regretted that she didn't kill off Ada in the hypnotic end of the film, saying "It would be more real, wouldn't it, it would be better? I didn't have the nerve at the time." Hunter laughingly demurred. "That was something that Jane toyed with when we shot the movie...and she's still thinking about it! Me, I love that it's a reverie for Ada, not a nightmare or something that haunts her. It soothes her."

Director: Jane Campion
Producer: Jan Chapman
Screenplay: Jane Campion
Cinematography: Stuart Dryburgh
Editor: Veronika Jenet
Costume Design: Janet Patterson
Art Direction: Gregory Keen
Music: Michael Nyman
Principal Cast: Holly Hunter (Ada McGrath), Harvey Keitel (George Baines), Sam Neill (Alasdair Stewart), Anna Paquin (Flora McGrath), Kerry Walker (Aunt Morag), Genevieve Lemon (Nessie), Tungia Baker (Hira), Ian Mune (Reverend), Peter Dennett (Head Seaman), Te Whatanui Skipwith (Chief Nihe)
120 minutes

by Margarita Landazuri
The Piano

The Piano

After attending film school in Australia and making several short films and two well-regarded features, New Zealand-born Jane Campion gained international acclaim as one of the most strikingly original writer-directors of the 1990s with her third feature, The Piano (1993), which became one of the iconic films of the decade. In the 1850s, mute mail order bride Ada McGrath arrives in New Zealand with her young daughter Flora and her beloved piano. Ada's dour Scotsman husband Stewart refuses to transport the piano over rough terrain to their home, and trades it to Baines, a fellow settler who has adopted Maori ways. Ada demands that Baines return the piano and he refuses, but they strike a bargain that allows her access to her instrument and draws the two together, with devastating consequences. Campion is a "pakeha," a New Zealander of white European descent. She studied anthropology and painting before going to film school, and grew up in an era of increased feminist awareness. All of these influences are evident in The Piano. In an interview, Campion said the film was inspired by "Gothic Romantic writing," and "is very sophisticated, easily the most adult or complex material I've attempted. It's the first film I've written that has a proper story, and it was a big struggle for me to write." In a different interview, she commented on the film's eroticism: "I was trying to re-examine what erotic is. To see if you can create it in a half-centimeter square flesh." Sigourney Weaver was Campion's first choice for Ada, but she was unavailable. The director also reportedly considered Isabelle Huppert and Jennifer Jason Leigh. But Holly Hunter was determined to win the role. "I'd never read a script with that kind of power," she later recalled, "and actually, have not read one since...it was such a private investigation of the psyche of a person. It's still probably my most fulfilling experience." Campion, who has said that Ada's character was partially inspired by the intensity of artist Frida Kahlo's face in her self-portraits, said Hunter's fierce visage convinced her. "In Holly's audition tape, her gaze was just stupendous." Hunter also offered another talent -- she was an accomplished pianist, who had taken piano lessons since the age of nine, and had initially aspired to a musical career. Campion wanted the piano to be Ada's "voice," and composer Michael Nyman talked with the director about what Ada is expressing, researched period music, listened to tapes of Hunter playing Bach and Brahms, and composed what he called "reflective, lyrical" music for her to play. When Hunter won an Oscar® for her performance, she said in her acceptance speech that Nyman's score helped her find her character and thanked her first piano teacher. Another skill came less easily to Hunter. Although rudimentary forms of sign language were used during the era depicted in the film, it was not yet codified. Instead, Hunter worked with a sign language interpreter to devise a simple signing method that Ada and her daughter might have used, and taught it to Anna Paquin, who played her daughter. Paquin, whose only acting experience prior to The Piano was playing a skunk in a school play, won the role of Flora when she tagged along with her older sister to an open audition for the role in Wellington, New Zealand. Campion thought the petite Paquin was the right size to be Hunter's child, and was impressed with how well she read a complicated monologue. Paquin won the part from among five thousand candidates. She later won an Academy Award®, as Best Supporting Actress. At age 11, she was the second youngest actress (after Tatum O'Neal) to win the statuette in that category. Campion herself earned two Oscar® nominations, for directing (the second woman, after Lina Wertmuller to earn a nod) and writing The Piano, taking home the writing award. She was the first woman to win the Palme D'Or for directing at the Cannes Film Festival; the film also shared the top film award with Farewell My Concubine and Hunter won the best actress award at Cannes. Reviews for the film were ecstatic. Vincent Canby wrote in the New York Times, "Here's a mysterious movie that, as if by magic, liberates the romantic imagination...Ms Campion somehow suggests states of mind you've never before recognized on the screen." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times called it "as peculiar and haunting as any film I've seen...It is one of those rare movies that is not just about a story, or some characters, but about a whole universe of feeling." In his Biographical Dictionary of Film, historian David Thomson agreed: "The sense of place, of spirit, and of silence is Wordsworthian...The Piano is a great film in an age that has nearly forgotten such things." Campion and Hunter reunited for the television miniseries Top of the Lake (2013), in which Hunter plays a guru to a group of women in New Zealand. In a joint interview, looking back on The Piano after twenty years, both women were proud of the film, but Campion regretted that she didn't kill off Ada in the hypnotic end of the film, saying "It would be more real, wouldn't it, it would be better? I didn't have the nerve at the time." Hunter laughingly demurred. "That was something that Jane toyed with when we shot the movie...and she's still thinking about it! Me, I love that it's a reverie for Ada, not a nightmare or something that haunts her. It soothes her." Director: Jane Campion Producer: Jan Chapman Screenplay: Jane Campion Cinematography: Stuart Dryburgh Editor: Veronika Jenet Costume Design: Janet Patterson Art Direction: Gregory Keen Music: Michael Nyman Principal Cast: Holly Hunter (Ada McGrath), Harvey Keitel (George Baines), Sam Neill (Alasdair Stewart), Anna Paquin (Flora McGrath), Kerry Walker (Aunt Morag), Genevieve Lemon (Nessie), Tungia Baker (Hira), Ian Mune (Reverend), Peter Dennett (Head Seaman), Te Whatanui Skipwith (Chief Nihe) 120 minutes by Margarita Landazuri

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Co-winner, along with Chen Kaige's "Farewell to My Concubine," of the Palme d'Or at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. Holly Hunter was also cited as best actress.

Holly Hunter was named best actress of the year by the Boston Society of Film Critics (1993).

Holly Hunter was named best actress of the year by the National Board of Review (1993).

Holly Hunter was named best actress of the year by the National Society of Film Critics (1993). Jane Campion was also cited for best screenplay.

Jane Campion won the best original screenplay award (1993) from the Writers Guild of America.

Named best film of the year by the London Film Critics Circle (1993). Holly Hunter was also named best actress.

Named best foreign film by the Chicago Film Critics Association (1993). Also cited for best actress (Holly Hunter) and best musical score.

Winner of a Cesar award, France's equivalent of the Oscar, for best foreign film (1993).

Winner of the Independent Feature Project/West's 1993 Spirit Award for best foreign film.

Jane Campion was nominated for outstanding directorial achievement by the Directors Guild of America. Campion is only the fourth woman to be so honored by the DGA. The previous three were Lina Wertmuller for "Seven Beauties" (Italy/1975), Randa Haines for "Children of a Lesser God" (USA/1986) and Barbra Streisand for "The Prince of Tides" (USA/1991).

Jan Chapman was nominated for the 5th annual Golden Laurel award from the Producer's Guild of America.

Released in United States Fall November 12, 1993

Expanded Release in United States November 19, 1993

Expanded Release in United States November 24, 1993

Expanded Release in United States December 25, 1993

Expanded Release in United States February 11, 1994

Expanded Release in United States February 18, 1994

Expanded Release in United States March 25, 1994

Released in United States on Video May 23, 1994

Released in United States on Video May 25, 1994

Released in United States August 1993

Released in United States September 1993

Released in United States October 1993

Released in United States October 1996

Shown at Edinburgh International Film Festival (opening night) August 14-29, 1993.

Shown at Toronto Festival of Festivals September 9-18, 1993.

Shown at Vancouver International Film Festival October 1-17, 1993.

Shown at New York Film Festival (closing night) October 1-17, 1993.

Jane Campion was named best director and Holly Hunter best actress by the New York Film Critics Circle (1993). Campion was also cited for best screenplay.

Jane Campion was named best director and Holly Hunter best actress by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (1993). Campion was also cited for best screenplay. Film tied with Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List" for best cinematography. In addition, Anna Paquin tied with Rosie Perez (the latter for her performance in Peter Weir's "Fearless") for best supporting actress.

Third feature for Campion who first conceived this project in 1984, while still enrolled at the Austrialian Film, Television & Radio School. She marked her feature directorial debut with "Sweetie" (Australia/1989), followed by "An Angel at My Table" (New Zealand/1990) which originated as a three-part miniseries for New Zealand television.

Received thirteen nominations from the 1993 Australian Film Institute (AFI). The film won a record 11 awards, including best picture, director, actress and actor.

Began shooting February 3, 1992.

Completed shooting May 5, 1992.

Released in United States Fall November 12, 1993

Expanded Release in United States November 19, 1993

Expanded Release in United States November 24, 1993

Expanded Release in United States December 25, 1993

Expanded Release in United States February 11, 1994

Expanded Release in United States February 18, 1994

Expanded Release in United States March 25, 1994

Released in United States on Video May 23, 1994

Released in United States on Video May 25, 1994

Released in United States August 1993 (Shown at Edinburgh International Film Festival (opening night) August 14-29, 1993.)

Released in United States September 1993 (Shown at Telluride Film Festival September 3-6, 1993.)

Released in United States September 1993 (Shown at Toronto Festival of Festivals September 9-18, 1993.)

Released in United States October 1993 (Shown at Vancouver International Film Festival October 1-17, 1993.)

Released in United States October 1993 (Shown at New York Film Festival (closing night) October 1-17, 1993.)

Released in United States October 1996 (Shown at AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival October 18-31, 1996.)

Chosen as a finalist for best marketed film of 1993 by the Film Information Council.