The nineties were a thriving time for independent cinema. Phenomenal new directors appeared, and discovered an amazing amount of talent. Within that great era, Jane Campion appeared. She was first noticed with the movie “An Angel on my Table” but her true masterpiece was “The Piano”.

“The acting, photography, direction, everything about this movie is flawless.”

Produced and first shown for the Cannes Film Festival, the movie is about a mute woman, who along with her young daughter, are sent to 1850s New Zealand for an arranged marriage, but she is instead lusted after a local worker on the plantation.

For me, this is what cinema is all about. The acting, photography, direction, everything about this movie is flawless. I remember sitting in the cinema, at the tender age of fifteen, where all my friends were watching “Jurassic Park” but I chose to watch a much-hyped movie about a mute woman, so was not considered cool. But I did not care. And I am so happy that I didn’t. The amount of emotions I went through and the images that were offered to the viewers were such a gift that almost seventeen years later, I still cannot forget them.

I remember Anna Paquin, before her “X-Men” and “True Blood” fame, in her first ever role, mind-blowingly taking everyone’s breath away with her performance. A performance that did not go unnoticed and won the supporting actress award at the Oscars.

I remember Holly Hunter, an actress who was not one of my favourites, sweeping me off my feet with her character, a muted woman; saying so much with her eyes and her body language.

I cannot forget the music, a beautiful, perfect score by Michael Nyman, and the most gorgeous photography by Stuart Dryburgh, creating memorable pictures and sounds. The music; a wonderful piece of classical music dominates most of the sounds within the movie and lets the characters of the movie talk through it and communicate their emotions making the viewer forget the harsh terrain of 18th Century New Zealand that surrounds the characters throughout the movie. A harsh terrain of rough seas, and vast jungle like forests being infiltrated by a piano, a piece of equipment, but in this movie a living a breathing soul, that does not belong to this place, but Ada, Holly Hunter’s character, refuses to do anything unless that piano is taken where she wants it. Ada, and her daughter Flora (as mentioned, the amazing Anna Paquin) are immediately strangers in this land; foreigners; outsiders. Flora, even though young, knows how to speak her own mind and also Ada’s mind – sometimes taking advantage of Ada’s muteness.  In one of the most shocking scenes of the movie, Flora shows her true age and by a spoilt but perfectly understandable reaction to Ada’s secret affair, she is responsible for the most brutal punishment given to Ada.

I try to write about “Forgotten Gems” that not a lot of people know, but are worth discovering. Or movies that people once loved, but soon forgot. I believe that anyone that has seen “The Piano”  has not forgotten it but anyone that hasn’t, I hope that they discover it some day.

“Sometimes it is unbearable as it floods the
viewer with emotions.”

Jane Campion, the first woman to ever win the Palme D’Or at Cannes, and the second woman back then to be nominated for an Oscar created a haunting cinematic piece, where images and sounds do not just support the movie, but support the characters; actually becoming characters to say a part of the story and provide interaction and opportunities for all actors to excel in their performances.

“The Piano” is not an easy movie to watch. Sometimes it is unbearable as it floods the viewer with emotions, but it is definitely a cinematic treat. Watch it with tissues, and let yourself immerse into the movie. I promise you will not forget the experience.

Words: George Mathioudakis

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