The Piano portrays the story of a mute, unwed Irish woman in late 1800s New Zealand, arranged into a marriage with a colonial New Zealand settler. The main character, Ada, expresses herself with the keys of her piano. She finds herself falling in love with Baines, one of the natives of her new home, after he persuades her to give him piano lessons in exchange for her beloved musical instrument. Ada is very emotionally distant with her new husband, and as he discovers the romance between her and his intense neighbor, he becomes competitively jealous. In a pit of rage, Ada's husband severs one of her precious fingers and eventually gives up on the failed marriage. In the end of the film, Ada and her young daughter, Flora, set off from the island with Baines to start a new life, without her once loved piano.
The characters in this film hardly come shy of delivering performances that make for amazing cinema. The actors in The Piano include Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, and Sam Neill. Holly Hunter's character, Ada, delivered a fantastic performance on camera. Although many average moviegoers and few critics may discard Hunter's role as achievement since she didn't have to memorize any lines, the majority of film critics worldwide certainly disagreed, as Holly Hunter ended up taking home the Palme d'Or and an Academy Award for best actress soon after the films release. Hunter's films previous to The Piano included films Raising Arizona, and a film by acclaimed Simpson's producer, James L. Brooks, entitled Broadcast News (Davis 1.) Campion noted that as she was deciding whom to cast as her admirable Ada, that Hunter was not her imaginative image of the character at all: Holly was my image of Ada at all. But, in fact, I was very much saved from myself by Holly. Originally, I had an almost clichéd, romantic view of this tall, statuesque, black-haired, black-eyed beauty. In many ways, she wasn't a very real human being, and when meeting Holly I was not very willing to see her as Ada. Holly was completely the opposite to my understanding of how Ada should be. However, I liked Holly very much and I started to open up to the idea of using her because she was so interested and willing to do an audition (Wexmen 118) Perhaps the most amazing performance came from the young actress that was not even acknowledged on the cover of The Piano. This, of course, was the adorable and talented young actress, Anna Paquin. Paquin was a Canadian actress that gave a performance that would have been amazing at any age. Jane Campion told Lynden Barber, "With a little girl like Anna, she's just got great instincts; I don't know where it comes from. She's just an example of how some people have that acting spirit". What might have been most amazing thing about Paquin's performance, other than the performance itself, is the fact that this was her first film that she ever acted in (Pageen 1 IMDB). Anna Paquin took home an Oscar for "best actress in a supporting role" at the 1994 Academy Awards.
Harvey Keitel, who played William Baines in the film, had been better known from previous movie roles such as tough guys in Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino films, until Jane Campion stumbled upon him. Like Holly Hunter, Keitel was an American, and his character transition into the New Zealand setting was very accurate and remarkably believable when watching The Piano.
The only New Zealand native that is a main character in the film is Sam Neill. Although Neill was born in Northern Ireland, he...