The Piano Teacher

The Piano Teacher (2001) movie poster

(2001) dir. Michael Haneke
viewed: 05/27/07

I’ve sort of backed into realizing that director Michael Haneke is one of the most interesting directors making films today.  I’d read about The Piano Teacher when it came out and have had it in my queue for a couple of years probably.  I’d seen The Time of the Wolf (2003) during the period that I wasn’t updating this diary, but it wasn’t until I ended up seeing Caché (2005) last year that it really struck me.  I don’t usually watch extras on DVD’s that much anymore unless something sparks me.  An interview with Haneke on the Caché disc was illuminating and he struck me as intelligent and had a sense of complexity that many directors fail to earn.  But after speaking with a friend about The Piano Teacher, I decided to push it to the top and watch it.

It’s indeed a very effective film, building quiet tension in the life of the titular protagonist, brilliantly played by the absolutely amazing Isabelle Huppert (I now totally get why people rave about her — she is incredible in this film — how often do I even mention actors’ performances?).  The tensions, the chaos, the intensely Freudian world of psychosis that she embodies create the space for the film’s moments of shocking action and events.

To tell the basics of the story, a repressed piano teacher winds up in a sexual relationship with a student, breaking through her tough, controlled, and harsh manner into her kinky fantasies and ultimately, revealing her deep, dark recesses and desire for love.  It’s really hard to evoke how effective Haneke is in building this world, giving this view into this woman and her mental and emotional world.  I am at a loss to really go into it more deeply, but Haneke seems to have a strong interest in repression and the return of the repressed, all highly Freudian concepts.  It’s brutal in many ways, shocking at moments.  Fascinating.  And Isabelle Huppert…totally amazing.

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