Cover Graphic from The Piano
Prayer Focus
Movie Review

The Piano

MPAA Rating: R for moments of extremely graphic sexuality

Reviewed by: Debbie James
CONTRIBUTOR

Extremely Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults only
Genre:
Romantic Drama
Length:
2 hr. 1 min.
R

Starring: Holly Hunter, Sam Neill, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin | Written and directed by: Jane Campion | Released by: CiBy 2000

“The Piano” was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won three of them; for actress (Hunter), supporting actress (Paquin), and screenplay (Campion).

The setting is the 19th century. The film opens with a cold, bleak shot of the New Zealand coast as Ada (Holly Hunter), accompanied by her 11-year-old daughter Flora (Anna Paquin), arrive from Scotland with a few possessions to an arranged marriage to Stewart (Sam Neill), a man she has never met. Ada is mute and hasn’t spoken since age six. She communicates by the writing of notes and sign language. When Stewart and the Maori tribesmen he hired to move her things inland to his house, decide that one of her possessions, her prized piano, is too heavy to move, they leave it there in the rain and surf. That act sets the tone for their marriage.

Ada becomes bitter and aloof to her new husband. She misses her piano so much, as that was her means of expressing herself, but her husband seems clueless to her distress. To ease her pain, she carves keys into the dining room table and pretends to play. Finally, one day she goes to a neighbor, George Baines (Harvey Keitel), and begs him to take her to her piano. As she plays, you can see the joy return to her face. George becomes entranced by her music and devises a plan. He arranges a trade with Stewart; land for Ada’s piano. George then asks Ada to teach him to play the piano. Eventually we see that piano lessons aren’t all he has on his mind. He tells her she can get her piano back in exchange for sexual favors; a few keys for each favor, to which she reluctantly agrees.

In addition to the adultery theme present in “The Piano,” there are scenes of graphic sexuality, full frontal nudity, and erotic moments, as well as sexual slang and innuendo. Language and violence is surprisingly low for an “R”-rated movie with only six instances of mild swearing and minimal violence. The worst scenes are shown during a production of the play “Bluebeard” and instances of marital disharmony, including abuse.

The music is hauntingly beautiful with Holly Hunter, a gifted pianist, playing all of the music on the soundtrack. The cinematographer’s use of bleak colors, stormy weather, and muddy terrain paint an accurate picture of the depressing surroundings and inner turmoil portrayed by the actors in the story. In fact, the most stunning scene in the movie shows Ada’s abandoned piano amidst a backdrop of crashing surf and gray stormy skies, at the precise moment when she’s struggling the most.

It’s too bad “The Piano” contains the explicit scenes. This movie was deemed spectacular from the world’s point of view, but unfortunately, it is too offensive for Christian viewing.

Year of Release—1993

Viewer Comments
I was appalled by this movie. I taped it off of television, knowing that an rated-R movie on TV would skip most of the parts I had no desire to see on the un-edited vieo. However, I was still highly offended by the movie. The acting was good, especially Anna Pacquin, the little girl. She was grand. I thought it absurd that a woman would give her body for each key of a piano—selling her soul for something that would constantly need tuning anyway! :-) The movie was graphic, depressing, and while I watched it, I kept feeling as if I needed to turn on the lights. The atmosphere was so gloomy!

Since I am a student at a Liberal Arts College, I am encouraged to watch movies like this. “It’s art, Amber,” or, “It has deep meaning.” Well, this kind of art is trashy and the only meaning I derived was--“Another film made based on the lack of morality in the world.” Don’t watch a movie just because everyone says it has deep meaning, or lovely scenery. Watch movies based on the words of Jesus, “Whatsover things are pure, lovely, honest, of good report… if there be any virtue or any praise, think on these things.” I had to learn that the hard way. Putting the wrong things in our systems can damage or soil or spirit. And “The Piano” just doesn’t hit the right chord! My Ratings: [1/3½]
—Amber, age 19
This movie is slow going, but has a strong message about women’s independence and the importance of being true to oneself. The husband is very oppressive and only looks at his mail-order bride as extra help. I never felt like he actually cared about her or her daughter. I could understand (while not condoning) the steps she took to keep near her piano—it was her means of expression, and a part of who she was. I actually felt I was in hot and steam New Zealand—the cinematography is very good. My Ratings: [3/4]
—Hillari Hunter, age 38
I have seen “The Piano,” and it lacks credibility—the fact that a woman would so easily prostitute herself for her piano. Why didn’t she seek someone else’s help when that guy was making sexual advances? She makes no attempt to do such. I thought the sexual scenes were not necessary to the plot; besides they seemed quite graphic. It neither gives thorough explanation of her attempted suicide. And the fact that she ends up with the fellow she prostitutes herself to was too much to bear. The movie seemed out of touch with reality in general. My Ratings: [1/1]
—Cory Briggs, age 42