Thursday, June 5, 2014

Indie Review: The Piano (1993)

                               This 'Piano' Plays Quite A Mysterious And Harmonious Tune
                   I have anticipated watching this film for quite a while since it was quite a success in the awards circuit and recently, kept trying to watch it online. But, today, I finally did and since I watched it not knowing what to expect, it completely blew my expectations away and I was amazed at how writer/director Jane Campion was able to take a romance and make it quite thought-provoking.
                The Piano follows a mute Scotswoman named Ada McGrath (Holly Hunter) and her daughter Flora (Anna Paquin) who travel to New Zealand to unite with a man Ada is forced to marrying named Alisdair (Sam Neill), bringing Ada's piano with them. When the two women settle there, Ada then gives piano lessons to Alisdair's friend named Baines (Harvey Keitel) in order to earn her piano back. Eventually, as Ada and Baines start bonding, they eventually have an erotic affair.

                What I Liked About It:
               I'll start off by discussing Holly Hunter's performance as Ada. What was so spectacular about it was how she is able to showcase what her character was going through without uttering a single peep and even scenes where she doesn't have Flora as her interpreter. In my opinion, Hunter's task of pulling off a performance that lives in her facial expressions and her eyes is more difficult than just saying her lines entirely. For example, there is one scene where Baines makes a deal with Ada where she will give Baines sexual pleasure in exchange for teaching him different piano keys and keeping her piano. In that scene, the way she expresses emotion seems like Ada knows what she is doing isn't the wisest but does it in order for him to return her most prized possession. Another actress that really shines is Anna Paquin as Flora. What was so enriching about Paquin's performance is that even though she plays the role as a normal 12-year-old, there are times where she makes it seem like Flora has a rather underlying darkness to her. Just like Ada, Paquin's character has a rather enigmatic quality to her. Sam Neill and Harvey Keitel also give wonderful supporting performances as the lead males in the film.

               Another thing I liked was how the piano was used a heavy symbol. I feel like the piano actually has more than one meaning. It is used as the 'key' to Baines and Ada's relationship and I feel is a representation of Ada herself. During one scene where Ada plays the piano in the beach, Baines finds himself drawn to her and the beautiful way she plays and it is like the piano is as entrancing as Ada is. Plus, the piano allows Ada to have some kind of release and feel free.

               I also really liked the film's beautiful scenery and the direction by Jane Campion. I thought it was interesting how she doesn't use any special visual techniques like color to tell the story or use a handheld camera to give it a more realistic feel. The way she directs it makes it seem like we are looking from the point of view of the characters. I especially liked how she directs Hunter and Paquin. There are scenes where they move their heads in the same direction and dress much similar, making it seem like Flora is like a miniature version of her mother and vice versa. Plus, I give Campion bonus points for creating a more original and different kind of love story.

              What I Didn't Like About It:
             I'll be honest and say there is one minor complaint I had towards the end. I don't want to give anything away, but there was one thing that I felt was a cheap cop-out used to create the final resolution together. It involves the love triangle showcased in the film, so I'll just leave it at that.

             Overall, The Piano is a marvelous and dark love story shrouded in mystery that is still entrancing. It features brilliant performances from its cast, has a unique premise, and masterful direction. I wouldn't recommend this to everybody because it is a rather artistic love story which won't suit everyone's taste and is definitely no Notebook. But it is still a brilliant film that I would still say give a watch.

Grade: A-

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