Film Review

The Piano

The Piano

When I was making up my mind whether I should watch this film or not, I was swayed by multiple reviews that said that although Sam Neill was not in general a fine actor, the part that he played in The Piano could have been written with him in mind, and allowed him to excel. Well, ever a fair minded person eager to give the underdog a chance, this persuaded me. Alas, I must conclude that the only parts that are written with Sam Neill’s acting ability in mind are ones that allow him to be upstaged by two blonde whiny brats, the fat man who sometimes appears in Seinfeld, and a herd of CGI diplodocuses.

Sam Neill in Jurassic Park

The other thing that should have been ringing alarm bells is the Michael Nyman soundtrack. Michael Nyman is pretty much like Satan, the pinnacle of unchallenging middle class music, endless arpeggios written in D minor (the saddest of all keys), described in terms like ‘sumptuous’ by people who don’t realise that using that word is a crime against life itself. Half the film is spent playing this odious composition equivalent to costume drama while the camera pans around Holly Hunter pretending to play the piano on a windswept beach.

So, anyway, the film. Holly Hunter plays some sour faced silent Scottish bird who plays the piano, or The Piano, whatever. Despite spending 90% of the time hissing at people from between pursed lips, she also possesses an amazing latent attraction for the two men in the film, er, Harvey Keitel and Sam Neill. (There are some indigenous types, but they don’t seem to understand sophisticated Western attraction, and so don’t count).

Holly arrives in a remote part of New Zealand in some kind of weird arranged marriage to Sam Neill. Sam Neill plays a familiar character called ‘Man who doesn’t understand women’s deep romantic needs, but who they’re probably married to’ whereas Harvey Keitel plays ‘Mysterious deep tattooed guy who is a bit dark, enjoys sex, who women watching the film probably aren’t married to but lust after, like that fucking werewolf out of ‘Twilight’, then bitch about how their husband’s putting on weight and forgot about Valentine’s day’. As suggested above, not speaking a goddamned word just increases Holly’s mystique and allure, despite all evidence suggesting she’s a grumpy ballbag saddled with possibly THE most irritating child in film history, even including the Jurassic Park canon.

Harvey Keitel initiates a politely sordid relationship with Holly Hunter where he kidnaps The Piano and gets her to do mildly sexual things in return for the liberation of her piano key by key. A back rub costs about 3 keys, getting in the nuddy about 5 keys as I recall. However, he manages to get to the home plate with her when still well in the lower registers, and instead of then calculating how he can spend what remains of his 88 keys, he comes down with some Victorian middle class Oscar nominee guilt thing. Boring! Oh right yeah, it’s romantic and subtle and that.

Some indigenous types as already mentioned appear in the film to provide some light relief from this bourgeois dreariness. One great bit is during a church play, where people are making hand puppet silhouettes behind a screen, like rabbits and that. Cue the indigenous folks thinking it’s real, and causing a commotion. Hmm. Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s possible that people perceived light and shadow before being colonised. Um great white leader makes um heap powerful rabbit magic!

Little Plum um redskin chum

It all ends happily ever after, Sam Neill chops her hands off, so she can’t ‘speak’ via The Piano anymore, so she starts actually speaking, but to Harvey Keitel, and gets a robo hand, and stuff like that.