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The Piano
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJane Campion
Written byJane Campion
Produced byJan Chapman
CinematographyStuart Dryburgh
Edited byVeronika Jenet
Music byMichael Nyman
Distributed byBAC Films (France)
Buena Vista International[1] (Australia and New Zealand; through Roadshow Film Distributors[2])
Release dates
  • 15 May 1993 (1993-05-15) (Cannes)
  • 19 May 1993 (1993-05-19) (France)
  • 5 August 1993 (1993-08-05) (Australia)
Running time
117 minutes
CountriesNew Zealand
British Sign Language
BudgetUS$7 million[3]
Box officeUS$140 million[4]

The Piano is a 1993 historical drama film written and directed by Jane Campion. It stars Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill, and Anna Paquin in her first major acting role. The film focuses on a mute Scottish woman who travels to a remote part of New Zealand with her young daughter after her arranged marriage to a frontiersman.

A co-production between New Zealand, Australia, and France, The Piano was a critical and commercial success, grossing US$140.2 million worldwide against its US$7 million budget. Hunter and Paquin both received high praise for their performances. In 1993, the film won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, making Campion the first female director to receive the award. It won three Academy Awards out of eight total nominations in March 1994: Best Actress for Hunter, Best Supporting Actress for Paquin, and Best Original Screenplay for Campion. Paquin was 11 years old at the time and remains the second-youngest actor to win an Oscar in a competitive category.

The plot has similarities to Jane Mander's 1920 novel The Story of a New Zealand River, but also substantial differences. Campion has cited the novels Wuthering Heights and The African Queen as inspirations.[5]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • The Piano (1993) Official Trailer - Holly Hunter, Anna Paquin Movie HD
  • The Piano | Official Trailer (HD) - Anna Paquin, Sam Neill, Harvey Keitel | MIRAMAX
  • The Piano Official Trailer #1 - (1993) HD
  • The Piano (1/11) Movie CLIP - We Can't Leave the Piano (1993) HD
  • Opening Scene of film THE PIANO (1993)



In the mid-1800s,[6] a Scotswoman named Ada McGrath who chooses not to speak is sold by her father into marriage with New Zealand frontiersman Alisdair Stewart, along with her daughter Flora. Ada has not spoken since the age of six, and the reason remains unknown. She communicates through playing the piano and sign language, with Flora acting as her interpreter. Ada had a relationship with a piano teacher whom she believed she had seduced through mental telepathy, resulting in Flora's birth, but the teacher left her after becoming frightened and refusing to listen.

Ada and Flora, along with their handcrafted piano, are stranded on a New Zealand beach by a ship's crew. The next day, Alisdair arrives with his Māori crew and neighbour George Baines, a retired sailor who's adapted to Maori customs, including facial tattoos. Alisdair initially tells Ada that they don't have enough bearers for the piano and then refuses to go back for it, claiming that they all need to make sacrifices. Ada is determined to be reunited with her piano, and coldly rejects Alisdair's advances. Desperate to retrieve her beloved piano, Ada seeks out George's help. Although he can't read her note, he is entranced by her music and agrees to help her. George offers Alisdair the land he's been coveting in exchange for the piano and Ada's lessons. Alisdair agrees, oblivious to George's attraction to Ada. Ada is enraged by George's proposition, but ultimately agrees to trade lessons for piano keys. She restricts the lessons to the black keys only and resists George's demands for more intimacy. Ada continues to rebuff Alisdair's advances while exploring her sensuality with George. George eventually realizes that Ada will never commit to him emotionally and returns the piano to her, acknowledging that their arrangement has made her a "whore" and him "wretched." George confesses that he wants Ada to care for him genuinely.

Although Ada has her piano back, she still longs for George and returns to him. Alisdair overhears them having sex and even watches them through a crack in the wall. Furious, he follows Ada the next day and confronts her in the forest, where he tries to force himself on her despite her strong resistance. Alisdair ultimately coerces Ada into promising she will no longer see George.

Shortly after, Ada instructs Flora to deliver a package to George, which contains a piano key with a love declaration engraved on it. Flora hesitates, but eventually delivers it to Alisdair instead. Enraged after reading the message, Alisdair cuts off Ada's index finger with an axe, depriving her of the ability to play the piano. He sends Flora to George with the severed finger, warning him to stay away from Ada or he will chop off more fingers. Later, while touching Ada as she sleeps, Alisdair hears what he thinks is her voice in his head, asking him to let George take her away. He goes to George's house and asks if Ada has ever spoken to him, but George assures him she has not. George and Ada leave together from the beach at which Ada first arrived in New Zealand, with her belongings and piano tied onto a Māori longboat. As they row to the ship, Ada asks George to throw the piano overboard. Ada allows her leg to be caught by the rope attached to the piano and is dragged underwater with it, in an attempt to drown herself. As she sinks, she appears to change her mind and struggles free before being pulled to safety.

In the epilogue, Ada describes her new life with George and Flora in Nelson, New Zealand, where she gives piano lessons in their new home. George has made her a metal finger to replace the one she lost, and Ada has been practicing and taking speech lessons. She sometimes dreams of the piano resting at the bottom of the ocean with her still tethered to it.



Casting the role of Ada was a difficult process. Sigourney Weaver was Campion's first choice, but ultimately turned down the role. Jennifer Jason Leigh was also considered, but had a conflict with her commitment to Rush (1991).[7] Isabelle Huppert met with Jane Campion and had vintage period-style photographs taken of her as Ada, and later said she regretted not fighting for the role as Hunter did.[8]

The casting for Flora occurred after Hunter had been selected for the part. They did a series of open auditions for girls age 9 to 13, focusing on girls who were small enough to be believable as Ada's daughter (as Holly Hunter is relatively short at 157 cm / 5' 2" tall[9]). Anna Paquin ended up winning the role of Flora over 5,000 other girls.[10]

Alistair Fox has argued that The Piano was significantly influenced by Jane Mander's The Story of a New Zealand River.[11] Robert Macklin, an associate editor with The Canberra Times newspaper, has also written about the similarities.[12] The film also serves as a retelling of the fairytale "Bluebeard",[13][14] itself depicted as a scene in the Christmas pageant.

In July 2013, Campion revealed that she originally intended for the main character to drown in the sea after going overboard after her piano.[15]

Principal photography took place over 12 weeks from February to mid-May 1992.[16]


Reviews for the film were overwhelmingly positive. Roger Ebert wrote: "The Piano is as peculiar and haunting as any film I've seen" and "it is one of those rare movies that is not just about a story, or some characters, but about a whole universe of feeling".[17] Hal Hinson of The Washington Post called it an "evocative, powerful, extraordinarily beautiful film".[18]

The Piano was named one of the best films of 1993 by 86 film critics, making it the most acclaimed film of 1993.[19]

In his 2013 Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin gave the film 3 1/2 stars out of 4, calling the film a "haunting, unpredictable tale of love and sex told from a woman's point of view" and went on to say "writer-director Campion has fashioned a highly original fable, showing the tragedy and triumph erotic passion can bring to one's daily life".[20]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 90% based on 71 reviews, and an average rating of 8.50/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Powered by Holly Hunter's main performance, The Piano is a truth-seeking romance played in the key of erotic passion."[21] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 89 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[22]

Box office

The film was the highest-grossing New Zealand film of all-time surpassing Footrot Flats: The Dog's Tale (1986) with a gross of $NZ3.8 million.[23]

It grossed over US$140 million worldwide, including $7 million in Australia, $16 million in France and $39 million in the United States and Canada.[24]


The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards (including Best Picture), winning three for Best Actress (Holly Hunter), Best Supporting Actress (Anna Paquin) and Best Original Screenplay (Jane Campion). At age 11, Anna Paquin became the second youngest competitive Academy Award winner (after Tatum O'Neal in 1973).[25]

At the Cannes Film Festival, the film won the Palme d'Or (sharing with Chen Kaige's Farewell My Concubine), with Campion becoming the first woman to win the honour, as well as the first filmmaker from New Zealand to achieve this.[26][27] Holly Hunter also won Best Actress.[28]

In 2019, the BBC polled 368 film experts from 84 countries to name the 100 best films by women directors, and The Piano was named the top film, with nearly 10% of the critics polled giving it first place on their ballots.[29]

Award Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
20/20 Awards Best Picture Nominated
Best Director Jane Campion Nominated
Best Actress Holly Hunter Won
Best Supporting Actress Anna Paquin Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Jane Campion Nominated
Best Art Direction Andrew McAlpine Nominated
Best Cinematography Stuart Dryburgh Nominated
Best Costume Design Janet Patterson Nominated
Best Film Editing Veronika Jenet Nominated
Best Original Score Michael Nyman Nominated
Academy Awards Best Picture Jan Chapman Nominated [30]
Best Director Jane Campion Nominated
Best Actress Holly Hunter Won
Best Supporting Actress Anna Paquin Won
Best Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen Jane Campion Won
Best Cinematography Stuart Dryburgh Nominated
Best Costume Design Janet Patterson Nominated
Best Film Editing Veronika Jenet Nominated
American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Feature Film Nominated
American Society of Cinematographers Awards Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases Stuart Dryburgh Nominated [31]
Argentine Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Film Jane Campion Won
Australian Film Institute Awards Best Film Jan Chapman Won [32]
Best Direction Jane Campion Won
Best Actor in a Leading Role Harvey Keitel Won
Best Actress in a Leading Role Holly Hunter Won
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Sam Neill Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Kerry Walker Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Jane Campion Won
Best Cinematography Stuart Dryburgh Won
Best Costume Design Janet Patterson Won
Best Editing Veronika Jenet Won
Best Original Music Score Michael Nyman Won
Best Production Design Andrew McAlpine Won
Best Sound Lee Smith, Tony Johnson, Gethin Creagh, Peter Townsend and Annabelle Sheehan Won
Awards Circuit Community Awards Best Director Jane Campion Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role Holly Hunter Won
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Anna Paquin Won
Best Original Screenplay Jane Campion Nominated
Best Costume Design Janet Patterson Nominated
Best Original Score Michael Nyman Nominated
Best Production Design Andrew McAlpine Nominated
Bodil Awards Best Non-American Film Jane Campion Won [33]
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards Best Actress Holly Hunter Won [34]
British Academy Film Awards Best Film Jan Chapman and Jane Campion Nominated [35]
Best Direction Jane Campion Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role Holly Hunter Won
Best Original Screenplay Jane Campion Nominated
Best Cinematography Stuart Dryburgh Nominated
Best Costume Design Janet Patterson Won
Best Editing Veronika Jenet Nominated
Best Original Music Michael Nyman Nominated
Best Production Design Andrew McAlpine Won
Best Sound Lee Smith, Tony Johnson and Gethin Creagh Nominated
British Society of Cinematographers Best Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature Film Stuart Dryburgh Nominated [36]
Camerimage Golden Frog (Main Competition) Won
Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Jane Campion Won[a] [28]
Best Actress Holly Hunter Won
César Awards Best Foreign Film Jane Campion Won [37]
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Film Nominated [38]
Best Foreign Language Film Won
Best Director Jane Campion Nominated
Best Actress Holly Hunter Won
Best Supporting Actress Anna Paquin Nominated
Best Screenplay Jane Campion Nominated
Best Original Score Michael Nyman Won
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Film Nominated
Best Director Jane Campion Nominated
Best Actress Holly Hunter Won
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Actress Nominated
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Jane Campion Nominated [39]
Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards Best Director Won [40]
Best Supporting Actor – Female Anna Paquin Won
Best Screenplay Jane Campion Won
Best Musical Score Michael Nyman Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated [41]
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Holly Hunter Won
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Anna Paquin Nominated
Best Director – Motion Picture Jane Campion Nominated
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Nominated
Best Original Score – Motion Picture Michael Nyman Nominated
Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing – Foreign Feature Martin Oswin Won
Guldbagge Awards Best Foreign Film Won [42]
Independent Spirit Awards Best International Film Won [43]
Japan Academy Film Prize Outstanding Foreign Language Film Nominated
Kinema Junpo Awards Best Foreign Language Film Jane Campion Won
London Film Critics Circle Awards Film of the Year Won [44]
Actress of the Year Holly Hunter Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Picture Runner-up [46]
Best Director Jane Campion Won
Best Actress Holly Hunter Won
Best Supporting Actress Anna Paquin Won[b]
Best Screenplay Jane Campion Won
Best Cinematography Stuart Dryburgh Won[c]
Best Music Score Michael Nyman Runner-up
Medias Central European Film Festival Best Picture (Audience Award) Jane Campion Won
Nastro d'Argento Best Foreign Director Nominated
National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films 4th Place [47]
Best Actress Holly Hunter Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Film 2nd Place [48]
Best Director Jane Campion 2nd Place
Best Actress Holly Hunter Won
Best Supporting Actress Anna Paquin 3rd Place
Best Screenplay Jane Campion Won
Best Cinematography Stuart Dryburgh 2nd Place
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Film Runner-up [49]
Best Director Jane Campion Won
Best Actress Holly Hunter Won
Best Screenplay Jane Campion Won
Best Cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh Runner-up
Political Film Society Awards Democracy Nominated
Producers Guild of America Awards Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures Jan Chapman Nominated [50]
Most Promising Producer in Theatrical Motion Pictures Won
Robert Awards Best Foreign Film Jane Campion Won
SESC Film Festival Best Foreign Film Won
Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards Best Picture Jan Chapman Won [51]
Top Ten Films Won
Best Director Jane Campion Won
Best Actress Holly Hunter Won
Turkish Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Film Won
Vancouver International Film Festival Most Popular International Film Jane Campion Won
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen Won [52]


The score for the film was written by Michael Nyman, and included the acclaimed piece "The Heart Asks Pleasure First"; additional pieces were "Big My Secret", "The Mood That Passes Through You", "Silver Fingered Fling", "Deep Sleep Playing" and "The Attraction of the Pedalling Ankle". This album is rated in the top 100 soundtrack albums of all time and Nyman's work is regarded as a key voice in the film, which has a mute lead character.[53]

Home media

The film was released on DVD in 1997 by LIVE Entertainment and on Blu-ray on 31 January 2012 by Lionsgate, but already released in 2010 in Australia.[54]

On 11 August 2021, the Criterion Collection announced their first 4K Ultra HD releases, a six-film slate, will include The Piano. Criterion indicated each title will be available in a 4K UHD+Blu-ray combo pack, including a 4K UHD disc of the feature film as well as the film and special features on the companion Blu-ray. The Piano was released on January 25, 2022.[55]

See also



  1. ^ "Top 100 Australian Feature Films of All Time". Screen Australia. Retrieved 12 May 2023.
  2. ^ "The Piano (35mm)". Australian Classification Board. Retrieved 8 April 2023.
  3. ^ "Box Office Information for The Piano". TheWrap. Archived from the original on 11 December 2013. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
  4. ^ Margolis 2000, p. 135.
  5. ^ Frey, Hillary (September 2000). "Field Notes: The Purloined Piano?". Lingua Franca.
  6. ^ "The Piano review – Jane Campion's drama still hits all the right notes | The Piano". The Guardian. 15 June 2018. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
  7. ^ "A Pinewood Dialogue With Jennifer Jason Leigh" (PDF). Museum of the Moving Image. 23 November 1994. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 July 2007.
  8. ^ "Isabelle Huppert: La Vie Pour Jouer – Career/Trivia". Archived from the original on 16 February 2012.
  9. ^ Worrell, Denise (21 December 1987). "Show Business: Holly Hunter Takes Hollywood". Archived from the original on 23 December 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  10. ^ Fish, Andrew (Summer 2010). "It's in Her Blood: From Child Prodigy to Supernatural Heroine, Anna Paquin Has Us Under Her Spell". Venice Magazine. Archived from the original on 25 July 2010. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  11. ^ Fox, Alistair. "Puritanism and the Erotics of Transgression: the New Zealand Influence on Jane Campion's Thematic Imaginary". Archived from the original on 24 October 2007. Retrieved 7 October 2007.
  12. ^ Macklin, Robert (September 2000). "FIELD NOTES: The Purloined Piano?". lingua franca. Vol. 10, no. 6.
  13. ^ Heiner, Heidi Ann. "Modern Interpretations of Bluebeard". Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  14. ^ Smith, Scott C. "Look at The Piano". Archived from the original on 12 October 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  15. ^ Child, Ben (8 July 2013). "Jane Campion wanted a bleaker ending for The Piano". The Guardian.
  16. ^ "'The Piano' Ain't Got No Wrong Notes". CineMontage. 12 June 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2023.
  17. ^ Ebert, Roger (19 November 1993). "The Piano". Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  18. ^ Hinson, Hal (19 November 1993). "'The Piano' (R)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  19. ^ McGilligan, Pat; Rowl, Mark (9 January 1994). "86 Thumbs Up! For Once, The Nation's Critics Agree on The Year's Best Movies". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 December 2021.
  20. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2012). 2013 Movie Guide. Penguin Books. p. 1084. ISBN 978-0-451-23774-3.
  21. ^ "The Piano (1993)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  22. ^ "The Piano Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  23. ^ Groves, Don (29 August 1994). "Summer B.O. goes out like a 'Lion'". Variety. p. 14.
  24. ^ Margolis 2000.
  25. ^ Young, John (24 December 2008). "Anna Paquin: Did she really deserve an Oscar?". Entertainment Weekly.
  26. ^ Dowd, AA (13 February 2014). "1993 is the first and last time the Palme went to a woman". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  27. ^ Margolis 2000, p. 1.
  28. ^ a b "The Piano". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 15 November 2022.
  29. ^ "The 100 greatest films directed by women". BBC. 26 November 2019. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  30. ^ "The 66th Academy Award Nominations : Oscars : The Nominees". Los Angeles Times. 10 February 1994. Archived from the original on 22 December 2023. Retrieved 22 December 2023.
    "The 1994 Oscar Winners". The New York Times. 22 March 1994. Archived from the original on 22 December 2023. Retrieved 22 December 2023.
  31. ^ "The ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography". Archived from the original on 2 August 2011.
  32. ^ "1993 Winners & Nominees". Australian Film Institute. Retrieved 15 November 2022.
  33. ^ "Bodilprisen 1994". (in Danish). Retrieved 19 July 2023.
  34. ^ "Past Award Winners". Boston Society of Film Critics. 27 July 2018. Retrieved 15 November 2022.
  35. ^ "Film in 1994". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  36. ^ "Best Cinematography in Feature Film" (PDF). Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  37. ^ Williams, Michael (27 February 1994). "Resnais' 'Smoking' duo dominates Cesar prizes". Variety.
  38. ^ Terry, Clifford (8 February 1994). "Spielberg, 'List' Win in Chicago". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 29 September 2020. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  39. ^ "46th DGA Awards". Directors Guild of America Awards. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  40. ^ "1994 Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards". Mubi. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  41. ^ "The Piano – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  42. ^ "The Piano (1993)". Swedish Film Institute. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  43. ^ "36 Years of Nominees and Winners" (PDF). Independent Spirit Awards. Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  44. ^ "Critics' Circle Film of the Year: 1980–2010". London Film Critics' Circle. 4 December 2010. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  45. ^ "London Film Critics Circle Awards 1994". Mubi. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  46. ^ "The 19th Annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards". Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  47. ^ "1993 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  48. ^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. 19 December 2009. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  49. ^ "1993 New York Film Critics Circle Awards". New York Film Critics Circle. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  50. ^ Cox, Dan (19 January 1994). "Laurel noms announced". Variety.
  51. ^ "1993 SEFA Awards". Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  52. ^ Fox, David J. (14 March 1994). "'Schindler's' Adds a Pair to the List : Awards: Spielberg epic takes more honors--for screenwriting and editing. Jane Campion's 'The Piano' also wins". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  53. ^ "Top 100 Soundtrack Albums". Entertainment Weekly. 12 October 2001. p. 44.
  54. ^ Piano [Blu-ray] (1993)
  55. ^ Machkovech, Sam (11 August 2021). "Criterion announces support for 4K UHD Blu-ray, beginning with Citizen Kane". Ars Technica. Retrieved 12 August 2021.


Further reading

External links

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