59 of 66 people found the following review helpful
The audience is plunged into a very unsettling world,
In French, with English subtitles, this film is a risky psychological drama about a well-respected music professor at a prestigious Vienna music school. She's in her forties, wears no makeup, keeps her hair in a bun and dresses in the plainest of clothes. As a teacher, she is severe and demanding. She and her mother live together and their constant arguments include slaps and tears and reconciliation. Her secret life, however, includes pornography, voyeurism and genital self-mutilation. When an attractive young man starts to pursue her romantically, she shocks him with her perversions. How this all plays out is fascinating and the eventual conclusion is inevitable, but along the way the audience is plunged into this very unsettling world.
Isabelle Huppert's performance as the teacher is absolutely magnificent. There are a lot of close-ups of her unsmiling freckled face and dark opaque emotionless eyes. There is a vague reference to her father being in an insane asylum; other than that there is no back-story to help us understand her. Benoit Magimel, cast as her young suitor, has a difficult role as well. During the course of the film, we watch him change before our eyes. All the other characters are also well cast and give outstanding performances.
The director, Michael Haneke, kept the tension and erotic undercurrent strong throughout. There is a lot of classical music and scenes of recitals and piano lessons in a very rigid and upscale world. And then there are those scenes targeted to make the audience squirm in their seats. When all the elements are put together, the results are a film that will long haunt my memories.
The Piano Teacher is not for everyone. But for those adventurous few who are willing to experience the different and dramatic, don't miss it.