I had heard about Michael Haneke’s “The Piano Teacher” many years ago and finally had a chance to watch it. The movie turned out to be more than what I expected. I thought the movie was going to be a chore to get through and would move at a glacial pace but man was I surprised.
“The Piano Teacher” is about Erika Kohut (Isabelle Huppert) a piano professor who teaches in Vienna. She is hard, cold and does not hold back when trying to get more out of her students. Erika lives with her domineering and controlling mother who intervenes in every aspect of Erika’s life. Erika’s only release is in the form of pornography and self-mutilation until she meets Walter Klemmer.
Walter is a young pianist who takes an instant liking to Erika after hearing her play at a recital. Walter and Erika engage in a relationship where Erika attempts to control it by teasing and depriving Walter of any affection. Things become even more heightened when Erika gives Walter a list of things she wants him to do to her which leads to a dramatic conclusion.
Michael Haneke specializes in uncomfortability and this movie is that. The audience feels sympathy for Erika’s repressed life and can understand her sexual leanings. She is socially inept when it comes to relationships and goes about it in an unconventional way which throws Walter off-balance.
The movie’s ending also seems to provide further understanding to just how dissociated Erika is from the people around her. Overall “The Piano Teacher” is an interesting depiction of a woman’s need to feel and experience more than what her static life provides.