The Piano Teacher (French Title: La Pianiste)


Isabelle Huppert -- Erika Kohut
Annie Girardot -- The Mother
Benoit Magimel -- Walter Klemmer
Susanne Lothar -- Mrs. Schober
Anna Sigalevitch -- Anna Schober

Runtime: 130 minutes

The Piano Teacher is a french film directed by Michael Haneke and starring Isabelle Huppert. The movie is an adaptation of Elfriede Jelinek's novel The Piano Teacher. The film was released in 2001 and was nominated for many awards including Best Film for BAFTA, the Golden Palm at Cannes, Best Actress at the Cesar Awards and many more. The film actually won the following awards:

Cannes Film Festival

Best Actor -- Benoit Magimel
Best Actress -- Isabelle Huppert
Grand Prize of the Jury -- Michael Haneke

Cesar Awards

Best Supporting Actress -- Annie Girardot

European Film Awards

Best Actress -- Isabelle Huppert

German Film Awards

Best Foriegn Film -- Michael Haneke

Seattle International Film Festival

Best Actress -- Isabelle Huppert

The above awards information cited from the Internet Movie Database.

When I first watched this film I have to say I was very affected. More by the abrupt ending that many french movies that I have seen have. The abrupt cut, like in Belle du Jour, aka Beauty of the Day which starred Catherine Deneuve, or Un Coeur en Hiver, aka In the Heart of Winter which starred Emmanuelle Beart and Daniel Auteuil, and others.

The film is about a piano teacher at the Royal Vienna Conservatory portrayed brilliantly by Isabelle Huppert who is sexually repressed and travels the sexshops to watch peepshows and sneaks around at night at the open theaters to spy on people having sex in cars. This film very much delves into the sado-masochist subject, as there is a scene in the bathroom where Erika is mutilating herself, and when Erika gives the letter to Walter who is extremely in love with her that describes everything that she wants him to do to her.

Even if you're not into the whole sado-masochist, tortured sex fiend thing, you can always watch the movie for the music. The main focus being Schubert since that is Erika's life. Her relationship with her mother is a bit weird. It's a love - hate relationship that really borders onto unbearable. At time I wanted to kill the mother, and at other times Erika just wanted to have sex with her? Erika and her mother sleep in the same room on two beds that are pushed together. Her mother is always rummaging through her clothes and the first scene with the mother is a fight between her and Erika in where Erika's new blouse that she buys is torn by her mother. There are actual scenes where she hits her mother and tears her hair out.

It is safe to assume that Erika is not sound in the mind. Her father died in a mental institution having gone insane, though the cause is unknown. Erika often compared herself and her father to Schumann and Schubert. Her brilliant career as a pianist and her slow deterioration because of her own destructive methods. Her interpretation of Schubert's music is not that he goes from loud to soft, he goes from screaming to a whisper.

Maybe she's not really repressed, maybe that's just the way she is. She equates ecstacy with love, love is just a form of banal things she says. Erika is constantly mean to her students, telling them that they are useless, that they aren't playing the music right. She catches one talking about women in porn at a newstand and threatens to tell his mother about it. From putting broken glass into a student's jacket pocket to ruin her future career as a pianist and getting off on it in the ladies washroom. And finally getting to exploit her dark sexual side once Walter confessed his love to her. Sure Walter refuses to do all the things in the beginning that she asks of him, but later he falls into it, he goes along with it. He accuses her of spreading her disease, he beats her, she yells stop but you're confused because in the letter she said that if she does yell stop he should hit her more and harder and he finally stops when she screams "Not my hands or face." At the same time you're thinking this is horrible you feel sorry for her, but on the other hand you're like, you deserve, this is exactly what you wanted, this is great. You have him all under your control, though he's in control at the same time. Or maybe I'm just a sicko. It is also the most striking scene. Walter's final lovemaking with her is almost shot like rape, Haneke is great in shooting it, and Huppert is magnificent in portraying it. This is where Erika is finally broken. It's tragic, she lets her mother out of the locked room, and she tells her she's okay.

I must say the film frustrated me a lot in the beginning because of the ending, but now I'm just obsessed with it. It's good, it was a good ending, it was right for the moment. Erika is great, she actually submitted Walter into her will while making him think that he was in control of her. She made him angry because she spurned all his charms, but all this only made him even more obsessed with her and I have to say I think she actually liked him too. Not because of the je t'aime screaming scenes or anything, but because maybe it was subtly acted by Huppert, or maybe Erika never did like him and was just using him as a play thing? I highly doubt it though.

Overall I give this movie a thumbs up. You should watch it if you're into the angsty foriegn psychological films.

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