“I have not spoken since I was six years old. Nobody knows why, not even me.” Those words are thought by Ada (Holly Hunter), a Scottish woman in the 19th century, who is shipped to New Zealand for an arranged marriage with frontiersman Alisdair Stewart (Sam Neill). She subsconciously refuses to use her voice, but instead expresses herself through her piano and her little daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin), who is a reflection of her mother‘s younger self. Consequently, Ada‘s relationship to her piano is intimate and tender, in some moments almost erotic. The film is the portrait of a strong-willed woman, who doesn‘t put up with the customs of the time, particularly regarding the role of the woman. It is a steadily intriguing, but not always a pleasant film. In the first half there are humorous moments to chuckle along with, most noticably concerning the brash attitude of the Flora, who is emulating her mother. However, as we get to know the characters, none of the three adult leads transpire as very likeable or comprehensible. We end up with an illiterate, who is unable to act rationally, an ignorant and insensitive pervert, who is unable to listen and an obstinate, inconsiderate brat, who is unwilling to talk. Her motivation might be reasonable, but that doesn’t make her behaviour any less strenuous. It‘s a movie to appreciate more than to enjoy.
Director: Jane Campion
Cast: Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill, Anna Paquin
Genre: Drama, Costume
Runtime: 121 min.
Release Date: 1993/05/15 (at Cannes)
Screenplay: Jane Campion
Edited: Veronika Jenet
Cinematography: Stuart Dryburgh
Music: Michael Nyman
Winner of the 1993 Palme d’Or