After a long voyage from Scotland, pianist Ada McGrath and her young daughter, Flora, are left with all their belongings, including a piano, on a New Zealand beach. Ada, who has been mute since childhood, has been sold into marriage to a local man named Alisdair Stewart. Making little attempt to warm up to Alisdair, Ada soon becomes intrigued by his Maori-friendly acquaintance, George Baines, leading to tense, life-altering conflicts.
This much-applauded film with eight Oscar nominations included a rare directorial nomination for its female director Jane Campion.
It told about eccentric, mute mail-order Irish bride Ada McGrath (Best Actress-winning Holly Hunter) who was newly-arrived from 1850s Scotland in New Zealand to join her landowner husband Stewart (Sam Neill) in the wilderness with her young daughter Flora (Anna Paquin).
However, she became involved in a blackmailing/bribery sexual deal (that included her own sexual awakening) during encounters with a coarse native settler/overseer neighbor named George Baines (Harvey Keitel) that revolved around the return of her beloved piano exchanged for a plot of land.
During her transgressive ‘piano lessons’ to buy the piano back (key by key) from Baines, each key was exchanged for a sexual favor (beginning innocently with lifting her skirt, to exposing her arms, or touching her skin through a stocking hole).
In the most sexually-charged scenes, Baines stripped naked by his bed and exchanged 10 piano keys for lying together without clothes on. Eventually, this led to having intercourse. When a regretful Baines finally realized that his sexual arrangement had made her a whore, he returned the piano.
Director: Jane Campion