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The Piano Teacher

Year: 2001
Production Co: Arte
Director: Michael Haneke
Writer: Michael Haneke
Cast: Issabell Huppert, Benoit Magimel

I didn't expect a lot of sense coming from a Michael Haneke film but I certainly expected a sense of shocking brutality, and he didn't disappoint me.

Isabelle Huppert is Erika, a strait-laced, no-nonsense piano teacher with an extremely unhealthy passive aggressive relationship with her live-in mother and – as we soon learn – some very deep perversions. The buttoned up collars and sensible flat shoes of this soft-spoken, hard-faced young woman are completely at odds with her penchant for visiting porno theatres in the back of sex shops.

A young man who shows musical promise enrolls in her class and starts to pursue her romantically, and it's when Erika starts to respond to him things get deeply psychological and deeply weird. It seems she's an extreme masochist, and in a long letter she explains to Walter (Magimel) that she wants him to tie her up, beat her and generally mistreat her.

Haneke then abandons all semblance of realism as each character indulges in ever-more extremes of outlandishly violent behaviour and the plot goes more or less out the window. But his imagery is as uncomfortable as always and under the soft, eviscerated underbelly of the flesh of this movie is some very disturbing things about human sexuality. You just won't be sure what they are.

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