A few months back I created a new feature which explored the cinematography and the score of select films, a feature I dubbed my "Visual & Sound Diary". In one particular entry I delved into the world of Jane Champion's Palme d'Or-winning The Piano. I attempted to recreate the incredible, distinctively eerie atmosphere by putting together the iconic images, a brief interlude describing its allure, its magic and a clip of the piano piece "The Heart Asks Pleasure First". On a recent trip to the scenic, wildly beautiful north island of New Zealand, I had the opportunity to visit the very places where Champion shot this transcendent film, the isolated, ghostly Karekare Beach and the sunlit spectacle Piha.
You can view my Visual & Sound Diary entry on The Piano here.
After pulling an all-nighter, the first place we drove to was Piha in the Waikatere region less than an hour from Auckland. Piha features some of the opening shots and cover images of The Piano - the mountainous terrain in such close proximity with the ocean, a somewhat jarring and magnificent spectacle.
Although only a forty-five minute drive from the city, getting to Karekare beach itself was no easy feat. However, after struggling with the utter lack of signposts to the destination, a very confused GPS, and an incredibly steep and narrow, one-lane-two-way road leading down to the beach, we made it. I was actually delighted with the miserable weather as many of the sequences shot in the film were on muggy, dark days. It was a muddy walk out onto the beach and required us to wade through a shallow tidal river. It was low tide when we arrived so the sand stretched out endlessly. The sand itself was incredible: it was black, tinged with a mineral blue (see below), darkened by the shadow of the surrounding mountains and wonderfully soft. Its difficult to capture just how spectacular the beach is in a few images but hopefully it'll provide some idea. Cool, quiet and empty, I can only admire The Piano's location scout, what a champ.
Note: the photos below may appear different to the film stills as the film was shot principally at high tide and I visited the beach at low tide