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Erika (Isabelle Huppert) is cool, aloof and a brilliant piano teacher, whose life at the academy is in sharp contrast to her confronting life at home with her mother (Annie Girardot). Even more hidden is her most intimate, lonely life as a sexually disturbed woman whose eventual affair with a brilliant male piano student (Benoît Magimel ) creates a dramatic conflict in her life.

Review by Louise Keller:
Dazzling in its complexity, disturbing for its extraordinary themes, The Piano Teacher is a film that defies categorisation. From the exaltation of sublime music from music masters such as Schubert, Schumann and Beethoven to the depth of shocking depraved sexual acts, this is a film of vast contrasts. Definitely not for the faint hearted, the themes range from Freudian love/hate relationship, sadomasochism, emotional and physical cruelty and sheer perversity. Director Michael Haneke has adapted Elfriede Jelinek's novel with brutal honesty and depicts the disquieting tale with no holds barred. Worth seeing for the outstanding performances of Isabelle Huppert and Benoît Magimel alone (both won best actor at Cannes last year), The Piano Teacher is one of those films that you will definitely have an opinion about. It haunts, horrifies, startles and fascinates; it is impossible to look away. Ah yes, and then there's the music. That magical music that enters our emotional senses, where ethereal beauty coupled with life's torments intertwine and find their home in our souls. No stranger to complex roles, Huppert eludes a sense of mystery: we don't know what she is thinking. But we are fascinated. As the colours of her personality are revealed and the full realisation of her depravity hits us, we are submerged in a world that constantly wavers between the sublime and the depths of the shadowy underworld. With his dashing blonde good looks, Magimel is a breath of fresh air; his youthful enthusiasm belies an inner strength that makes him a formidable contender for his teacher's instructions. Be prepared for the ending - it gives no answers, but yet another jolt into a world where the fine line between sanity and utter madness meld into a human form.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
This film's subject shocked, its performances entranced and its ending amazed the Cannes 2001 jury, and it will do it all to you, too. The exploration of character - in this case perhaps a rather unusual one by everyday standards - is the paramount concern of edgy filmmaker Michael Haneke, as we are taken on a deliberately unsensationalist tour of piano teacher Erika's confronting psychology. Cool, brittle, brilliantly talented and strangely aloof on the surface, she is a broiling mess of sexually exotic peccadilloes and personal demons deep down. This contrast in texture and spiritual content - from sublime musical prowess to sadomasochistic sexual flings - is what makes her fascinating; not to mention her love/hate relationship with her mother - brilliantly played by Annie Girardot. And this is where it becomes more interesting than a poke around someone's sexual likes: we are introduced to the two women through a row that symbolises the fragile, co-dependent and ultimately sad relationship. The story doesn't exactly begin here: it began some time ago, we don't know when or what triggered it. And when the film ends, it is not the end of the story, either. It's as if we have peeped into a life for a while as it passed in front of Haneke's camera, but he did not supply neat beginnings or endings. We are left to ponder whether Erika is a little deranged or whether she is simply reacting to life's vagaries in this way. In any case, by the time the film ends, we have enjoyed some extremes, provided by some extremely fine performances. You will not be bored.

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La Pianiste

CAST: Isabelle Huppert, Benoît Magimel, Annie Girardot, Susanne Lothar, Udo Samel, Anna Sigalevitch, Cornelia Kongden

PRODUCER: Veit Heiduschka

DIRECTOR: Michael Haneke

SCRIPT: Michael Haneke


EDITOR: Nadine Muse, Monika Willi

MUSIC: not credited


RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 4, 2002 (Sydney; Melbourne - August 29)


VIDEO RELEASE: (Rental) July 13, 2003

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