The Piano TeacherAugust 31, 2001
A young man romantically pursues his masochistic piano teacher.
Release Year: 2001
Rating: 7.3/10 (18,371 voted)
Critic's Score: 79/100
Stars: Isabelle Huppert, Annie Girardot, Benoît Magimel
Erika Kohut is a pianist, teaching music. Schubert and Schumann are her forte, but she's not quite at concert level. She's approaching middle age, living with her mother who is domineering then submissive; Erika is a victim then combative. With her students she is severe. She visits a sex shop to watch DVDs; she walks a drive-in theater to stare at couples having sex. Walter is a self-assured student with some musical talent; he auditions for her class and is forthright in his attraction to her. She responds coldly then demands he let her lead. Next she changes the game with a letter, inviting him into her fantasies. How will he respond; how does sex have power over our other faculties?
Writers: Michael Haneke, Elfriede Jelinek
Dr. George Blonskij
Mme Gerda Blonskij
Man in drive-in
Release Date: 31 August 2001
Filming Locations: Konzerthaus, Vienna, Austria
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: £71,911
(11 November 2001)
(10 November 2002)
Did You Know?
Isabelle Huppert really played the piano in the film. She had studied piano for 12 years. As preparation for her role as a piano teacher, she resumed practicing a year before the film was started.
If you think the movie is shocking, wait till you read the book!!
If you think piano teacher Erika Kohut (Isabelle Huppert) in Michael
Haneke's film "LA PIANISTE" is the ultimate degree in the
personification of derangement, perversion and darkness, I've got news
for you: the piano teacher in Elfriede Jellinek's novel "LA PIANISTE"
(on which the film was based) is twice as "repulsive", "disgusting",
"deranged" and even more fascinating — though there can't be words
enough to translate the level of artistic proficiency that Isabelle
Huppert has reached here, above all other mortal actresses in activity
today. And who else could have played this character with such
emotional power, complete with the best piano playing/dubbing an actor
In the novel as in the film, there are two big antagonists to the
"heroine" Kohut: her own mother (wonderful, wreck-voiced Annie
Girardot, in a part originally intended for Jeanne Moreau) and Austria
itself. The mother personifies Jellinek's perception of her native
Austria as a country that deceptively and perversely encourages
racist/fascist (or at least authoritarian) behavior, sexual and
emotional repression, and, let's say, übermensch ideals which are
impossible to keep today without the danger of a mental breakdown.
"La Pianiste" also deals with a very powerful and delicate issue: how
dangerous it is to reveal your innermost fantasies to the one (you
think) you love. We tend to think our own sexual fantasies must be as
exciting to others as they are to ourselves, which may turn out to be a
huge, embarrassing and sometimes tragic mistake. Here, Kohut learns (?)
the lesson in the most painful and humiliating of ways.
It must be mentioned that Elfriede Jellinek is one of the best-known
and praised authors in Austria and Europe (well, now she's got a Nobel
Prize!) and that autobiographical passages can be inferred in her
novel, as she herself was a pianist and had a reportedly difficult
relationship with her mother. The novel also includes long passages
about Kohut's childhood and adolescence so you kind of understand how
she turned into who she is now. Haneke chose to hide this information
in the film, forcing us to wonder how she got to be that way (don't we
all know a Erika Kohut out there?). But he very much preserves the
fabric of the book in his film: unbearable honesty, to the point where
most secretive, "horrendous" feelings painfully emerge — envy,
cruelty, violence, jealousy, hate, misery, sadism, masochism,
selfishness, perversion etc. All of them unmistakably human.
I thought "La Pianiste" was a deeply moving film, very disturbing and
thought-provoking, with a handful of unforgettable scenes, and that's
just all I ask of movies. It also made me buy and be thrilled by the
book, discover a fantastic author I hadn't read before, and listen
again and again to Schubert – so, my thanks to Haneke, Jellinek and
Isabelle!!! On the other hand, if you're looking for light
entertainment, please stay away. My vote: 9 out of 10