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The Piano Teacher (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Piano Teacher
The Piano Teacher film.jpg
Directed byMichael Haneke
Produced byVeit Heiduschka
Screenplay byMichael Haneke
Based onThe Piano Teacher
by Elfriede Jelinek
StarringIsabelle Huppert
Benoît Magimel
Music byMartin Achenbach[1]
CinematographyChristian Berger
Edited byMonika Willi
Nadine Muse
Distributed byFrance:
MK2 Diffusion
Concorde Filmverleih
Release date
  • 14 May 2001 (2001-05-14) (Cannes)
  • 5 September 2001 (2001-09-05) (France)
  • 11 October 2001 (2001-10-11) (Germany)
Running time
131 minutes[2]
Budget$6.2 million[3]
Box office$9.8 million[4]

The Piano Teacher (French: La Pianiste, lit. 'The Pianist') is a 2001 French-language psychological thriller film, written and directed by Michael Haneke, that is based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Elfriede Jelinek. It tells the story of an unmarried piano teacher at a Vienna conservatory, living with her mother in a state of emotional and sexual disequilibrium, who enters into a sadomasochistic relationship with her student. A co-production of Austria and France, Haneke was given the opportunity to direct after previous attempts to adapt the novel by filmmakers Valie Export and Paulus Manker collapsed for financial reasons.

At the 2001 Cannes Film Festival it won the Grand Prix, with the two leads, Isabelle Huppert and Benoît Magimel, winning Best Actress and Best Actor. It went on to receive positive reviews and other awards and nominations.


Erika Kohut is a piano professor at a Vienna music conservatory. Although already in her forties, she still lives in an apartment with her domineering mother. Her late father had been a long-standing resident in a psychiatric asylum. Despite Erika's assured façade, she is a woman whose sexual repression is manifested in her paraphilia, including voyeurism, sadomasochistic fetishes and self-mutilation.

At a recital hosted by the Blonskij couple, Erika meets Walter Klemmer, a young man who also plays piano and expresses admiration to her skill in classical music. The two share an appreciation for composers Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert, and he attempts to apply to conservatory to be her pupil. The other professors see talent in him, with only Erika voting against him for his differing interpretations of Schubert's Andantino, and questions as to his motivations. Another pupil, Anna Schober, struggles with anxiety while pushed by her own ambitious mother. However, when Erika witnesses Anna and Walter socializing, she slips to an empty coat room and breaks glass, hiding the shards inside one of Anna's coat pockets. This injures her right hand, ruining her aspirations to play at the forthcoming jubilee concert.

Walter pursues Erika into a lavatory immediately after she secretly injured Anna. Walter passionately kisses Erika, and she responds by repeatedly hurting, humiliating and frustrating him. Later, Erika feigns sympathy to Anna's mother, with Erika saying only she can substitute for Anna in the upcoming school concert at such a late stage in planning.

Walter is increasingly insistent in his desire to start a sexual relationship with Erika, but Erika is only willing if he will satisfy her masochistic fantasies. She writes a letter indicating acts she will consent to, but the list repulses him. As he grows increasingly frustrated with her, including seeing her vomit during fellatio in a hockey arena, he visits her apartment at night. He attacks her in her apartment in the fashion she let him know she desired, beating and then raping her, outside her mother's bedroom door where the elderly woman is locked in and overhears the violence. He then leaves.

The next day, Erika takes a kitchen knife to the concert where she is scheduled to substitute for Anna. When Walter arrives, he enters cheerfully, laughing with his family. Moments before the concert is due to start, Erika stabs herself in the shoulder with the kitchen knife and exits the concert hall into the street.



Burberry trench coats were selected for costumes.
Burberry trench coats were selected for costumes.

The film is based on the 1983 novel The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek,[5] who won the 2004 Nobel Prize in Literature.[6] Director Michael Haneke read The Piano Teacher when it was published and aspired to adapt it to transition from making television films to cinema. However, Haneke learned Jelinek and Valie Export had already adapted a screenplay, a project aborted due to lack of investment.[7] Jelinek later abandoned home for a film version before selling the rights to Paulus Manker, who asked Haneke to adapt the screenplay, though Haneke would not be the director. Manker did not secure a budget, so the producer asked Haneke to direct.[7]

Haneke agreed to take over the directorial helm, though the screenplay had been written with Manker's direction in mind, only if Isabelle Huppert was the star.[7] Haneke also reorganized the novel's story, and developed the character of Anna Schober and Mrs. Schober to mirror the Kohuts mother-daughter relationship at a past stage.[7] In pre-production, Haneke followed Jelinek's choices in costumes, including pleated skirts and Burberry trench coats common in Vienna conservatories.[7]


Actor Role
Isabelle Huppert ... Erika Kohut
Benoît Magimel ... Walter Klemmer
Annie Girardot ... The Mother
Susanne Lothar ... Mrs. Schober
Udo Samel ... Dr. Blonskij
Anna Sigalevitch ... Anna Schober
Cornelia Köndgen ... Mme Blonskij

Haneke had previously reached out to Huppert to star in his films Funny Games (1997), which she passed on for another professional conflict. When Haneke told her he would not direct The Piano Teacher without her, Huppert skimmed the screenplay and realized its potential.[8] She said she had studied piano as a child, quitting when she was 15, but began playing again for the film.[8]


Filming began in 21 August 2000 and ended in 28 October 2000

For the scene in which Erika cuts herself in the bathtub, tubes and a pump were used for the false blood, which the props artist had to conceal from the camera under Huppert.[7] Huppert also wore a blood bag under her clothing for the self-stabbing scene, taken from the novel.[7] Benoît Magimel studied piano during filming to convincingly simulate his playing scenes at the end of production, while the music is playback.[7] Susanne Lothar performed in German, but her lines were dubbed over with French in co-production.[7]


Critical reception

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 73% approval rating based on 85 reviews, with the site consensus being: "Though it makes for rather unpleasant viewing, The Piano Teacher is a riveting and powerful psychosexual drama".[9] Roger Ebert awarded it three and a half stars, citing Huppert's confidence, writing on hints of revenge against The Mother character and defending the ending, saying "with a film like this any conventional ending would be a cop-out".[10] Peter Bradshaw credited Haneke for aptitude in creating "nerve-jangling disquiet" and Huppert for "the performance of her career".[11] David Denby praised the film as "audaciously brilliant".[12]

In 2017, The Los Angeles Times critic Justin Chang recalled The Piano Teacher as Huppert's best work in a Haneke film, and "a major achievement in a disturbingly minor key".[13] Mick LaSalle credited Huppert for "a rich incarnation of a woman we might see on the street and never guess that she contains fires, earthquakes and infernos", comparing it to her in the 2016 film Elle.[14]


The film won awards on the European circuit, most notably the Grand Prix at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, with the two leads, Huppert and Magimel, winning Best Actress and Best Actor. The film was Austria's submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film,[15] but it was not nominated.

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
British Academy Film Awards 24 February 2002 Best Film Not in the English Language Michael Haneke Nominated [16]
Cannes Film Festival 14 – 25 May 2001 Grand Prix Won [17]
Best Actress Isabelle Huppert Won
Best Actor Benoît Magimel Won
César Awards 2 March 2002 Best Actress Isabelle Huppert Nominated [18]
Best Supporting Actress Annie Girardot Won [19]
European Film Awards 1 December 2001 Best Film Michael Haneke Nominated [20]
Best Screenwriter Nominated
Best Actress Isabelle Huppert Won
Independent Spirit Awards 22 March 2002 Best Foreign Film Michael Haneke Nominated [21]
Los Angeles Film Critics Association 15 December 2002 Best Actress Isabelle Huppert Runner-up [22]
National Society of Film Critics 4 January 2003 Best Actress Runner-up [23]
San Francisco Film Critics Circle 17 December 2002 Best Actress Won [24]

See also


  1. ^ Holden, Stephen (29 March 2002). "Movie Review - The Piano Teacher (2001) - FILM REVIEW; Kinky and Cruel Goings-On in the Conservatory". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  2. ^ "THE PIANO TEACHER - LA PIANISTE (18)". Artificial Eye. British Board of Film Classification. 3 October 2001. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  3. ^ "LA PIANISTE". JP's Box-Office.
  4. ^ "La Pianiste". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  5. ^ Naqvi, Fatima; Kone, Christophe (2010). "The Key to Voyeurism: Haneke's Adaptation of Jelinek's The Piano Teacher". On Michael Haneke. Wayne State University Press. p. 127. ISBN 081433699X.
  6. ^ Ezard, John (8 October 2004). "Austrian writer wary at scooping Nobel prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Haneke, Michael (2017). Viennese Obscenities: Michael Haneke on The Piano Teacher. The Piano Teacher (Blu-ray). The Criterion Collection.
  8. ^ a b Huppert, Isabelle (2017). The Actor's Quest: Isabelle Huppert on The Piano Teacher. The Piano Teacher (Blu-ray). The Criterion Collection.
  9. ^ "The Piano Teacher". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (26 April 2002). "The Piano Teacher". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  11. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (9 November 2001). "The Piano Teacher". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  12. ^ Denby, David (1 April 2002). "Play It Again". The New Yorker. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  13. ^ Chang, Justin (20 September 2017). "Criterion revives a chilling tune with Michael Haneke's 'The Piano Teacher'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  14. ^ LaSalle, Mick (20 December 2017). "DVD Review: 'The Piano Teacher'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  15. ^ Feiwell, Jill (19 November 2001). "51 countries bid for Oscar". Variety. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
  16. ^ "Bafta Award Nominees 2002". The Daily Telegraph. 28 January 2002. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  17. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Piano Teacher". Retrieved 17 October 2009.
  18. ^ "Prix et nominations : César 2002". AlloCiné (in French). Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  19. ^ Ciminelli, David (28 February 2011). "French Film Star Annie Girardot Dies". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  20. ^ "THE PIANO TEACHER". European Film Academy. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  21. ^ Editors (12 December 2002). "Far From Heaven; nominated for five Independent Spirit Awards (7184)". The Advocate. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  22. ^ King, Susan (15 December 2002). "L.A. Film Critics Pick 'Schmidt' as Year's Best Film". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  23. ^ Goodridge, Mike (5 January 2003). "The Pianist sweeps National Society Of Film Critics awards". Screen Daily. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  24. ^ "2002 SAN FRANCISCO FILM CRITICS CIRCLE AWARDS". San Francisco Film Critics Circle. 17 December 2002. Retrieved 2 January 2018.

External links

This page was last edited on 3 December 2018, at 10:29
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