Nineteenth century Scotland: Ada (Hunter) hasn't spoken since she was six. She communicates with hand signs, and doesn't consider herself silent, thanks to the joy she takes in playing her piano. But when she arrives in New Zealand for an arranged marriage, her husband (Neill) insists the piano is too unwieldy to be carried from the beach. So, when Baines (Keitel), a neighbouring settler turned half-Maori, buys it, Ada agrees to give him piano lessons, unaware that he intends eventually to give her the instrument in return for small but illicit sexual favours. Campion's Gothic romance is notable for its performances and Michael Nyman's score. The writer/director offers something more starkly, strangely beautiful than most costume dramas, and the whole film puts a fresh spin on the traditional love story. The characters are stubborn and inward-looking, and it's the refusal to sentimentalise that makes this harsh tale of obsession so moving. Campion never underestimates the power physical obsession exerts over human souls, and, for once, a modern film treats erotic passion honestly.