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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Piano (1993)



Reviews and Comments

"The voice you hear is not my speaking voice. It's my mind's voice."

The Piano is one of the most critically-acclaimed films of 1993, but I can't help feel that its value is over-estimated as a result of its literary appearance and quality. It's a solid film, to be sure. Holly Hunter turns in a spectacular performance as a voluntary mute, and Sam Neill strikes all the right notes as a patient man with a dangerous breaking point. Harvey Keitel falls a little short by comparison but is effective.

The story is the standard forbidden love plot, but in the context of real people (rather than movie character cut-outs). But there's more to it than that. There's the title character, the piano, which Hunter uses as her voice. Her playing speaks more eloquently than words, certainly more than the scowls and jerky hand motions she uses when she's flustered. Keitel covets Hunter, and he goes about snaring her by taking her voice -- her piano -- away. He offers her a deal to get it back, and of course she must accept it.

The film's setting and cinematography is remarkably effective -- dense woods, hills, mud, a claustrophobic cabin. They serve the story well, and the imagery is unforgettable.

Although The Piano is a fine film and a splendid character study, director Jane Campion would have done well to have picked up the pace a little. It's not fashionable to say so in a world of slight attention spans, where film art is so often ruined by expedient editing, but The Piano goes overboard in drawing things out. It is languid rather than thoughtful. The pivotal scenes are timed to perfection, but the stuff in between is overdrawn.