The Piano Teacher (film)  

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Walter Klemmer: [reading the teacher's letter] "On the contrary, if I beg, tighten my bonds, please. Adjust the belt by at least two or three holes. The tighter the better. Then, gag me with some stockings I will have ready. Stuff them in so hard that I'm incapable of making any sound. Next, take off the blindfold, please, and sit down on my face and punch me in the stomach to force me to thrust my tongue in your behind."

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Piano Teacher (French: La Pianiste) is a 2001 film directed by Michael Haneke, starring Isabelle Huppert and Benoit Maginel. It is based on the novel Die Klavierspielerin by Elfriede Jelinek. It tells the story of an unmarried piano teacher at a Vienna conservatory, living with her mother in a state of emotional and sexual disequilibrium, who is attracted to a pupil but in the end repels him by her need for humiliation and self-harm.



Erika Kohut is a piano professor at a Vienna music conservatory. Although already in her forties, she still lives in an apartment with her domineering mother. Her father is a long-standing resident in a psychiatric asylum.

The audience is gradually shown truths about Erika's private life. Behind her assured façade, she is a woman whose sexual repression is manifested in a long list of paraphilia, including (but by no means limited to) voyeurism and sadomasochistic fetishes such as sexual self-mutilation.

When Erika meets Walter Klemmer, a charming 25-year-old engineering student from a middle class background, a mutual obsession develops. Even though she initially attempts to prevent consistent contact and even tries to undermine his application to the conservatory, he eventually becomes her pupil. Like her, he appreciates and is a gifted interpreter of Schumann and Schubert.

Erika destroys the musical prospects of an insecure but talented girl, Anna Schober, driven by her jealousy of the girl's contact with Walter—and also, perhaps, by her fears that Anna's life will mirror her own. She does so by hiding shards of glass inside one of Anna's coat pockets, damaging her right hand and ruining her aspirations to play at the forthcoming jubilee concert. Erika then pretends to be sympathetic when Anna's mother asks for advice on her daughter's recuperation. (The sub-plot of the pupil and her mother, mirroring the main relationship in the film, is absent in Jelinek's novel.) In a moment of dramatic irony, the girl's mother rhetorically asks Erika who could do something so evil.

Walter pursues Erika into a lavatory immediately after she has secretly ruined her pupil's hand. Walter passionately kisses Erika even though she is rebuffing him. Erika finally responds to his passion, but insists on repeatedly controlling, humiliating and frustrating Walter.

Walter is increasingly insistent in his desire to start a sexual relationship with Erika, but Erika is only willing if he will satisfy her masochistic fantasies, which repulse him. The film climaxes, however, when he attacks her in her apartment in the fashion she let him know she desired, beating and then raping her, outside her mother's bedroom door. He then leaves.

The next day, Erika takes a kitchen knife to the concert where she is scheduled to fill in for the injured Anna. She delays going to the stage because she is desperate to see Walter, but Walter enters cheerful and laughing with his family. Moments before the concert is due to start, Erika stabs herself superficially in the shoulder and exits the concert hall into the street.

Cast and crew



2001 Cannes Film Festival

2002 César Awards

2002 German Film Awards

  • Best Foreign Film

2001 European Film Academy

  • Best European Actress - Isabelle Huppert

2001 French Academy of Cinema

2002 L.A. Film Critics Association

  • Best Actress (Runner-up) - Isabelle Huppert

2002 National Society of Film Critics

  • Best Actress (Runner-up) - Isabelle Huppert

2001 Russian Guild of Film Critics

  • Best Foreign Actress - Isabelle Huppert
  • Best Foreign Film

2002 San Francisco Film Critics Circle

  • SFFCC Award - Best Actress - Isabelle Huppert

2002 Seattle International Film Festival

  • Golden Space Needle Award - Best Actress - Isabelle Huppert


2002 Bafta Awards

  • Best Film not in the English Language

2003 Bodil Awards

  • Best Non-American Film

2001 Cannes Film Festival

2002 César Awards

2001 British Academy Awards

  • Best Foreign Language Film - Michael Haneke
  • Best Foreign Language Film - Veit Heiduschka

2001 European Film Academy

  • Best European Film
  • Best European Screenplay - Michael Haneke

2001 French Academy of Cinema

  • Best Actress - Isabelle Huppert

2002 Independent Spirit Award

  • Best Foreign Film

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Piano Teacher (film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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