Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
Australia/New Zealand/France, 1993. CiBy 2000, Jan Chapman Productions, The Australian Film Commission, New South Wales Film & Television Office. Screenplay by Jane Campion. Cinematography by Stuart Dryburgh. Produced by Jan Chapman. Music by Michael Nyman. Production Design by Andrew McAlpine. Costume Design by Janet Patterson. Film Editing by Veronika Jenet.
Holly Hunter revives her career with her letter-perfect performance as a mute Scottish woman with an iron will who is sent to New Zealand as a mail-order bride for a farmer (Sam Neill), bringing along her equally fiery and imaginative daughter (Anna Paquin, debuting at the age of 11 and becoming one of the youngest Oscar winners ever). Upon their arrival, Neill has his Maori workers carry all her luggage and belongings back to his property, but insists on leaving her piano behind because it is too bulky and too superfluous an object to be transported across the rough terrain. What he doesn’t know is that for this woman, the piano is her only means of emotional expression and a deep and important part of who she is. Neighbouring settler Harvey Keitel takes the piano for himself and asks Hunter to give him lessons, though it becomes clear very quickly that he’s more interested in her, and offers her a sexual bargain that she accepts in order to get back her beloved instrument. Eye-popping photography by Stuart Dryburgh is amazing, as is Campion’s consistent skill for framing.
Academy Awards: Best Actress (Holly Hunter); Best Supporting Actress (Anna Paquin); Best Original Screenplay
Nominations: Best Picture; Best Director (Jane Campion); Best Cinematography; Best Costume Design; Best Film Editing
Cannes Film Festival Awards: Palme D’Or (tie); Best Actress (Holly Hunter)
Golden Globe Awards: Best Actress-Drama (Holly Hunter)
Nominations: Best Picture-Drama; Best Supporting Actress (Anna Paquin); Best Director (Jane Campion); Best Screenplay; Best Original Score