The Piano

The Piano ★★★★

The Piano is a gorgeous and very well crafted film that suffers a bit from the changing waters of time. For the year it came out, it's a wonderful tale with a complicated and fascinating protagonist. For the modern day, the film's romance gives a bit of a feeling of stockholm syndrome. (It is notable that the film's director never intended for the movie to be explicitly feminist, she was just telling a story she wanted to tell)

Holly Hunter's performance is fantastic. She never says a word the entire film, but still gets across what she's feeling at all times. You truly understand her struggle to feel like herself, in a time when women weren't seen as individuals. Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill and Anna Paquin are likewise excellent, though this is Hunter's film through and through.

In addition to the stockholm syndrome (The primary love story is essentially about her relationship with a man who is, under a modern lense, an abuser of her) the film's treatment of the Maori is frustrating. Though there is some reference made to the way the white men are racist against the Maori, they are never treated as characters by the film, most of them coming across as dim-witted. It's a frustrating decision to see, when there are now films that have done better by them.

I was first interested to view this film when I heard the main musical theme "The Heart asks Pleasure First." It is one of my favorite score pieces of all time, and it's use elevates the film. (How the hell was Michael Nyman not nominated for an Oscar for this score?) Though the film didn't quite blow me away, it is a strong and well crafted film that is a testament to Jane Campion's strength as a storyteller.