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The Piano Teacher (R-Rated Edition)

3.7 out of 5 stars 116 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Winner of three top prizes at Cannes, including the Grand Jury Prize, The Piano Teacher is a lucid descent into the most feverish depths of sexual obsession. Isabelle Huppert's Cannes and European Film Award winning performance (called "A brilliant psychological portrait" by Variety) effortlessly illuminate the darkest corners of the human psyche in one of the most courageous characterizations of her celebrated career. Huppert and her co-star (and fellow Cannes honoree) Benoit Magimel transcend mere art-house erotica as they plunge headlong into a whirlpool of twisted desire and rage. Based on Elfriede Jelinek's controversial 1983 novel, The Piano Teacher tells the story of Erika (Huppert), a middle-aged classical piano instructor who is trapped between her rigid passion for music and her suffocating home life. After subtly tormenting her students at a Vienna conservatory and battling her domineering mother in an undeclared war at home, Erika seeks solitary release through nightly voyeuristic wanderings and self-inflicted masochistic experiments. Drawn to Erika's unrelenting perfectionism, Walter (Magimel), a vain and handsome young student, tragically mistakes her unraveling sanity for growing ardor. After an unspeakably cruel assault on another conservatory student, Erika and Walter's perverse courtship explodes in an encounter The New Yorker declared, "may be the strangest sex scene in the history of movies." Director Michael Haneke (Funny Games, Code Unknown) expertly infused The Piano Teacher with a disturbing, clinical intensity that side-steps both moralism and prurience. A film that charts a savage expedition into the grimmest and most tragic recesses of female sexuality without a trace of sentimentality or salaciousness, The Piano Teacher is "Altogether dazzling!...for those who like films that take big risks and get away with them" (Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times).

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Isabelle Huppert, Annie Girardot, Benoît Magimel, Susanne Lothar, Udo Samel
  • Directors: Michael Haneke
  • Writers: Michael Haneke, Elfriede Jelinek
  • Producers: Christine Gozlan, Michael Katz, Veit Heiduschka, Yvon Crenn
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Kino International
  • DVD Release Date: November 5, 2002
  • Run Time: 131 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006LPES
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,635 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Piano Teacher (R-Rated Edition)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Nowhere Man VINE VOICE on April 14, 2003
Format: DVD
When I first heard about Michael Haneke's "The Piano Teacher", about a sexually repressed instructor at the Vienna Conservatory, I thought it was exactly the kind of movie I didn't want to see. In a world awash in pop music, South Park and Britney videos, how could a film about the stultifyingly uptight classical music world have *any* relevance for a post-modern, post-everything film buff (even if he is American?) Didn't Bergman tread this ground 40 years ago? Didn't Bunuel make savage fun of the hypocrisy of bourgeois sexual respectability in "Belle de Jour" (1966)? Wasn't Haneke a little behind the times?
Walking - or I should say staggering - out of the theater 2.5 hours later, I was humbled by the scope of Haneke's and Huppert's achievement. Rarely have I seen a film both so clear-eyed about sexual psychosis and yet so compassionate as well. Isabelle Huppert, who probably wasn't nominated for an Oscar only because the film can be so off-putting to some, gives what can only be described as an intense performance. Her clenched face and the darting movements of her eyes reveal more about her character - her inner rage, her self-hatred - than most actors can achieve with sheets and sheets of dialouge. That's the essence of the film, everything is very formally *controlled* - so that when violence, self-inflicted or otherwise, breaks out, it is startling because it emerges from such as civilized veneer.
If the point of the film were to demonstrate the High Culture spiritually deforms those who engage in it (and I don't think it does), the film would have minimal interest. High culture has been on the defensive so long, it doesn't need to be blamed for driving Isabelle Huppert nuts as well.
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Format: DVD
The Piano Teacher shows us a few days in the life of a disturbed woman who is both victim and victimizer. Isabelle Huppert briliantly plays the part of Erika Kohut, a middle-aged piano teacher at a music college in Vienna. Annie Giradot is no less effective as her domineering and watchful mother. The two women abuse one another physically and verbally. This relationship is long standing and comes to a crisis as the film progresses.
Erika is unable to break the bonds that attach her to her mother. Instead, like a child who has never grown up, she wants to please her mother, but is driven to act out her own fantasies secretly. Her mother appears to be unaware of the deep seated repression that is consuming her daughter. What she does see is an angry, hateful person who lies to her and deceives her frequently.
Erika's sexual frustration takes the form of physical and pschological self-hate. She visits porn shops to degrade herself and she mutilates her body to distract her from the intense psychological pain she suffers constantly.
At school her anger takes the form of verbal abuse to her students who are unable to achieve the artistic integrity she demands. What appears to be an inflated sense of her own importance as an artist masks her frustration at being second-rate. She is not good enough to be recognized as an artist in her own right. Her hatred of herself and her inadequacy as an artist prompt her to strike out at students and colleagues alike.
Into her seething cauldron of despair comes a young engineering student, Walter Klemmer, wonderfully played by Benoit Maginel, who wants to study Schubert with her. At first she refuses him, but pressure by the school to accept him forces her to work with him.
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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.
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