The Piano Teacher

directed by Michael Haneke

Review by Gary W. Tooze

Its hard to know what to think of the 2001 film La Pianiste on first viewing. I was taken back by much of the perverse, harsh and desperate behavior on screen, but also had a very strong sense that it was restrained... un-sensationalized... certainly in as tactful manner as could be done within the confines of the subject, an abjectly cold and disturbed piano teacher. 

Isabelle Huppert plays Erika Kohut, a high level piano teacher in Vienna. She lives with her powerfully protective mother (Anne Girardot). We learn that her father is deceased. Aside from sleeping in a bed side-by-side with her mother at night, Erika has other extremely dysfunctional predilections. She has bizarre self indulgent sexual practices and we voyeuristically view her performing them. 

Shot with many close-ups, director Haneke explores a deep rooted psychological drama, backed with graceful Schubert music. The central character of Erika was expertly played by Huppert who was awarded best actress at Cannes.

Erika is lonely and isolated, but not powerful enough to allow her to flee her demons. We never become aware of the origin of this psychosis but with a brief mention of a father and the relentlessly domineering mother, my own view was that she was abused as a child. In the overall sensibility it really doesn't matter.. only that this woman is injured... scarred mentally, and with obvious self-loathing to desire physically abuse. She cannot adhere to a healthy loving relationship.

The irony of Erika's perversities is the graceful surrounding of noble music and culture and is one of the more compelling attributes of the film. My only complaint would be the uneven characterization of her love interest Walter (Benoît Magimel). His love and attempted transition to suit her desires seems too unprepared and rapid for his presumed manner. Regardless, Huppert is riveting enough for all and it is definitely a film that will stay with you. I enjoyed it very much.out of

DVD and Film Details
The DVD quality is very good. The picture quality is exceptionally clear as is the wonderful sound but the disc is quite bare of extras. Four trailers are included, but no commentary, interviews or documentary as on the R2 version. It has nice interactive menu's but since the film itself screams for discussion it is a shame that that not more effort was put into this release. I give it out of

Full Cast and Crew for
Pianiste, La (2001) 

Directed by 
Michael Haneke 

Writing credits 
Michael Haneke 
Elfriede Jelinek (novel) 

Cast (in credits order) 
Isabelle Huppert .... Erika Kohut 
Annie Girardot .... The Mother 
Benoît Magimel .... Walter Klemmer 
Susanne Lothar .... Mrs. Schober 
Udo Samel .... Dr. Blonskij 
Anna Sigalevitch .... Anna Schober 
Cornelia Köndgen .... Mme Blonskij 
Thomas Weinhappel .... Baritone 
Georg Friedrich .... Man in drive-in 
Philipp Heiss .... Naprawnik 
William Mang .... Teacher 
Rudolf Melichar .... Director 
Michael Schottenberg .... Teacher 
Gabriele Schuchter .... Margot 
Dieter Berner .... Singing teacher 
Volker Waldegg .... Teacher 
Martina Resetarits .... Teacher 
Annemarie Schieinzer .... Teacher 
Karoline Zeisler .... Teacher 
Liliane Neiska .... Secretary 
Luz Leskowitz .... Violinist 
Viktor Teuflmayr .... Pianist 
Vivian Bartsch .... Woman in drive-in 
Florian Koban .... Pupil 
Thomas Auner .... Haydn pianist 

Produced by 
Yvon Crenn .... executive producer 
Christine Gozlan .... executive producer 
Veit Heiduschka .... producer 
Michael Katz (V) .... executive producer 

Cinematography by 
Christian Berger 

Film Editing by 
Nadine Muse 
Monika Willi 

Casting by 
Markus Schleinzer 

Production Design by 
Christoph Kanter 

Set Decoration by 
Hans Wagner (II) 

Costume Design by 
Annette Beaufays 

Makeup Department 
Françoise Andrejka .... makeup artist 
Fabienne Bressan .... hair stylist 
Ellen Just .... makeup artist 
Thi-Loan Nguyen .... key makeup artist 
Michael Oppl .... special makeup effects artist 
Waldemar Pokromski .... special makeup effects artist 

Production Management 
Roman Haschberger .... unit production manager 
Michael Katz (III) .... production manager 
Gebhard Zupan .... production manager 

Second Unit Director or Assistant Director 
Katharina Biró .... assistant director 
Fritz Noltmann .... assistant director 
Hanus Polak Jr. .... first assistant director 

Art Department 
Peter Ecker .... props 
Katrin Huber .... property master 
Fritz Martan .... construction coordinator 
Hannes Salat .... props 
Peter Wenhardt .... scenic artist 

Sound Department 
Pascal Chauvin .... foley artist 
Jean-Pierre Laforce .... sound 
Nadine Muse .... sound editor 
Guillaume Sciama .... sound 

Special Effects by 
László Kovács (II) .... special effects coordinator 
Hans Wagner (II) .... special effects 

Visual Effects by 
Geoffrey Kleindorfer .... visual effects 

Other crew 
Roman Haschberger .... location manager 
Andreas Kispert .... assistant location manager 
Ulrike Lässer .... production coordinator 
Jörg Widmer .... steadicam operator 
Technical Information

Release Information:
Theatrical Release Date: May 14th, 2001
DVD Release Date: June 25th, 2002
Package Type: Keep Case

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen non-anamorphic - 1.77:1

Discographic Information:
DVD Encoding: All Regions
Layers: Dual
Available Audio Tracks: French (Dolby Digital 5.1) and French (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Available subtitles: English

Edition Details:
• Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
• Color, Closed-captioned, Widescreen, Dolby
• 4 Trailers

• 12 Chapters

• Interactive menus


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