Wednesday, June 07, 2017
The Piano Teacher
Basically The Piano Teacher is a character study of someone who has severe sexual confusion. Huppert is a fortyish teacher at a conservatory in Vienna. She lives with her harpy of a mother. The first scene has her coming in late and her mother (Annie Girardot) terrorizing her, searching her handbag. Huppert fights back, but ultimately is controlled by the emotions she feels for her mother.
Huppert is an extremely demanding teacher, and also a bit nuts. That she stops off at adult book stores to watch porno films isn't so bad, but she also likes to cruise drive-in theaters to watch people having sex in their cars. She also is into self-mutilation, as there is a scene in which she is in the bathtub and appears to cut her vagina, but I'm not sure what she was doing.
Her worst crime is when she sabotages a student, a teenage girl who has talent but Huppert finds to be a nervous nelly. She breaks some glass and puts in the student's coat pocket, so that she cuts her hand to ribbons, jeopardizing any future at playing.
Into Huppert's life comes Walter (Benoit Magumel), perhaps twenty years younger than her, an overgrown puppy who is always happy and does not take life seriously. He is turned on by her, and says he loves her. She humiliates him in a public restroom, making him masturbate in front of her, but later she will reveal to him that the relationship she wants is sado-masochist, with him being the dominant one. She wants to be tied up, beaten, anything he wants to do to her. He is repulsed.
I won't go any further, as the climax is very shocking and unpleasant, as one would expect from Haneke, who never takes it easy on his audience.
As someone who spent part of my career at a publication dedicated to those interested in S&M and B&D, I found The Piano Teacher interesting and somewhat accurate. What Huppert does is called topping from below, where she wants to be dominated but dictates how. When Magumel breaks the rules, the true nature of her masochism is revealed.
Huppert is amazingly good. She spends most of the movie with a scowl plastered on her face (I don't recall her smiling in the film, or laughing) and we can see the wheels turning inside her head. When true nature to Magumel, and begs him to beat her, the emotional response is acute.
The Piano Teacher is a gripping film, but ultimately it was unsatisfying (an ambiguous end, another Haneke trait, doesn't help) and difficult to watch. I would certainly not suggest it as a first date film, unless you met your date at the Hellfire club.