Fully meeting the expectations of a Michael Haneke film to be brutally challenging and provocative cinema, The Piano Teacher for starters is guaranteed to cause walkouts, ignite debate over the ‘phallic woman’ and even be seen as an ode to Bach and Schubert.Haneke’s intelligence and deftness in portraying both sexual and violent sentiments to stir the most wary audience are evident, but the real joy of his screen adaptation of Elfriede Jeilinek’s novel is the dark angel of the piece, Isabelle Huppert. Huppert rewards Haneke’s persistence in pursuing her (she passed on Funny Games), with a crushing performance as the Piano Teacher, Erika Kohut. Steely and deadpan, and living to the mantra of “I have no feelings…if ever I do, they won’t defeat my intelligence,” her character’s in need of a few laughs. Aside from her kinky voyeuristic tendencies, she’s does a neat line in sadomasochism, highlighted in a gynaecological razor blade scene that is set to join the celebrated big screen razor usage hall of fame.
Cool and clinical, the film’s intelligent and engrossing viewing with Huppert supported by spot-on performances by Benolt Magimel and Annie Girardot - student lover and oppressive mother respectively.Essentially a portrayal of a unhinged and repressed woman, with it’s French actress, The Piano Teacher stands as something of an older sister to Roman Polanski’s Repulsion; less flashy in style, into classical music and much more bitter and twisted. - David Michael