DIRECTOR: JANE CAMPION
AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND 1993
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Stuart Dryburgh
MUSIC: Michael Nyman
WRITTEN: By Jane Campion
CAST: Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill, Anna Paquin, Kerry Walker, Genevieve Lemon
ONE WORD: The Acting...Hunter and Keitel.
There are Films and then there are just films.
There was a time back a few years, when many settlers were still trying to colonize New Zealand. Many of these men were loners, who pretty much lived the laughs of the local aborigines. Some of them used the tools of their trades to purchase a wife, or try and make a connection. Ada has not had an easy time in her life. She has been sent (or accepted it isn't quite clear) to the new continent, to become the wife of one just such pioneer, Stewart. She seems to have hopes of a new life. He has hopes for a wife that will serve him. And it all goes alright, until we see that part of the luggage is a massive piano.
In the new continent, there are no roads, save for the ones the aborigines have created with their feet. And they all live a distance from the beach, and salty, water. The welcoming committee comes to pick up Stewart's new wife, and although late, they get there. There aren't enough people to carry all the things she has, and the piano gets left behind.
One of the aborigines, decides to take on the piano, by trading a piece of land for it, something which Stewart can never turn down. And Ada is invited by the modernized aborigine (Baines) to trade playing for a few lessons. All is well, until their relationship begins taking on different dimensions, and Ada's young daughter begins to feel alone.
As time goes by, Ada is now spending more time at Baines' house and the development of their affair is found out.
Stewart returns, to find this out and in a fit of jealousy and anger he punishes his wife, in the process severing any chance he might have at reconciling with her. They finally split and Baines is in charge of taking her back to the continent (Australia). She stays with Baines, the only person who has made time for her, and she has finally been able to open up and feel comfortable with.
The best part of the film is the acting by Holly Hunter, and sure Oscar nominee playing this part as a mute, who has much to say, and a lot to feel, but can only display it through the piano. The music by Michael Nyman is excellent, and expressive enough of the feelings which Ada has, or is trying to learn. At first the sensuality is in the piano. Later it is on her body.
Well written, and filmed in intimate detail, very few long shots, except those of the piano in the beach far away, it displays much of the way of life the aborigines have, which the western man seems to have lost, or not been able to create. A good, and close, relationship with family. Ada buys into a world where she is forced to look at herself, and at the same time open up to her feelings, in ways more than one, which of course, is what she needs to heal her past.
The film is almost difficult to discuss, since it is one of those films that you gotta see. There is not much to talk about. So, do you discuss a man whose ideas of life and living can be bought for his satisfaction? Or do you discuss someone that had a very nice feeling for playing an instrument, and could do well in the harshest of circumstances? In the end, the one thing that you can do here is forget it all and just watch 2 actors go at it, and just take you away, and the direction in the film is, really about the actors, which is something that Jane Campion has demonstrated in almost all of her feelings. I can say that I never felt that there was too much of both Harvey Keitel or of Holly Hunter, and probably because the whole thing is photographed with what I thought could be two different styles ... one is from a distance, and the other is up close, and I thought this was done really well the whole film long. And I think that a director knowing the difference, and working with actors that also know how to feel comfortable with each other, is what a great film usually ends up being. This is one of them.
Both Holly Hunter and Harvey Keitel are superb, and it is hard to find such communication with so few words. It is here, and worth seeing.
4 1/2 GIBLOONS
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