Settling in for movie night? Here, St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares her recommendations for five piano films every musician should watch…
Movies have an amazing way of changing how we look at the world. Every once in a while, some studio will release one that has a tremendous impact on so many of us. After the Cold War fighter jet film “Top Gun” came out in the 1980s, for example, the United States Navy saw a huge increase in recruitments to their aviation program. When a movie about a studio musician who reluctantly takes a job as a high school music teacher called “Mr. Holland’s Opus” was released in the 1990s, music education programs saw a spike in new students looking to become music teachers. Maybe movies don’t change the way that we see the world; maybe they just inspire us to see what was already there.
There’s nothing like a movie about the piano and pianists to feed your own art. Here is a list of five of my favorites.
The Piano (1993)
Starring Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, and a young Anna Paquin, “The Piano” tells the story of a mute woman sent with her daughter and her prized piano to be married to a wealthy landowner in New Zealand. A romance with another man ensues, but the woman’s most intimate and intense relationship is most certainly with the piano.
The Pianist (2002)
Directed by the world-renowned Roman Polanski and starring Adrien Brody, “The Pianist” beautifully details the heart-wrenching tale of a Polish-Jewish pianist who survives the brutal invasion of Warsaw by the Nazi regime. Brody won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role.
Geoffrey Rush plays David Helfgott, a real-life Australian pianist raised and viciously driven by his father and his teachers to become the greatest in the world. After an emotional breakdown, he eventually finds both his love of playing and the joy of life. Rush won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in this piano film.
The Competiition (1980)
Richard Dreyfuss and Amy Irving star as two competitive piano players who enter the same major competition and then just happen to fall in love with each other. The tension and intensity of such an important event both fuels and complicates the romance.
The Piano Lesson (1995)
A Hallmark Channel TV movie set in the 1930s, “The Piano Lesson” is the story of a man who returns to his childhood home in Pittsburgh to sell his family’s cherished heirloom piano and “claim his half.” But his sister wants to keep the instrument that’s meant so much to their family and continues to be such a wonderful part of their childhood memories. The battle over the piano ends in a great life lesson.
The piano is one of the most special objects in many cultures, but especially in the West. Unlike a French horn or a cello, for example, it’s the one musical instrument that many families, even those without musicians, have and share in their homes. Perhaps that’s why so many terrific films have been inspired by it and by the draw and allure that it evokes.