It is the mid-nineteenth century. Ada is a mute who has a young daughter, Flora. In an arranged marriage she leaves her native Scotland accompanied by her daughter and her beloved piano. Life in the rugged forests of New Zealand's North Island is not all she may have imagined and nor is her relationship with her new husband Stewart. She suffers torment and loss when Stewart sells her piano to a neighbour, George. Ada learns from George that she may earn back her piano by giving him piano lessons, but only with certain other conditions attached. At first Ada despises George but slowly their relationship is transformed and this propels them into a dire situation. Written by
Patrick Dominick <email@example.com>
Picked by Entertainment Weekly magazine as one of the "50 Greatest Independent Films" in a special supplement devoted to independent films that was only distributed to subscribers in November 1997. See more »
Ada writes a note to George on a piano key, but earlier George had told her that he can't read. See more »
The voice you hear is not my speaking voice - -but my mind's voice. I have not spoken since I was six years old. No one knows why - -not even me. My father says it is a dark talent, and the day I take it into my head to stop breathing will be my last. Today he married me to a man I have not yet met. Soon my daughter and I shall join him in his own country. My husband writes that my muteness does not bother him - and hark this! He says, "God loves dumb creatures, so why not I?" '...
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Jane Campion is a director of quiet unease. I was not a big admirer of her "Angel At My Table", which had enormous possibilities but was suffocated under the filmmaker's penchant for what I refer to as 'ugly beauty'. Even the beautiful passages in this film are undermined by either something ghastly, something about to become ghastly, or something borne from ghastliness. A New Zealand woman in the 1800s becomes a mail-order bride for an uninterested working man; she's a self-elected mute and communicates through her wizened little daughter (Oscar-winner Anna Pacquin, a bit over-the-top) and through her passion for playing the piano, which becomes a point of contention in her marriage. Engrossing human drama with a torrid undercurrent of sexuality and violence. Many people I've talked to about this film could not get with it, but perhaps that's the fault of watching movies at home. In the theater, this was a slightly-dazed, rapturous and enveloping brew that held me spellbound until the lights went up. Movies like this don't hold the same spell when butchered up by ads for the CBS comedies. Holly Hunter, Sam Neill and, most especially, Harvey Keitel all do terrific work. Hunter deservedly won a Best Actress Oscar. ***1/2 from ****
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