A sexually repressed music professor becomes obsessed with one of her young students
Michael Haneke’s La PIANISTE (2001) is based on the novel Die Klavierspielerin written by Elfriede Jelinek. The film depicts the life of a sexually repressed piano teacher who in her late thirties, still lives in an apartment with her mother. Erika (Isabelle Huppert) is a strict Schubert & Schumann pianist. Her regard for these musical greats refine her strong personality; as her persona towards her students emanates dominance–in every aspect–from the conversation to the restrictive way she obtains sustenance–to the self-destructive way she mutilates herself–strict, refined–appropriate. What Erika had not calculated in her monotonous lifestyle–the potential for love. Love, not in the sense that maybe you and I pursue–this love has an error of extreme masochistic style of adoration–and it is this form of love that will make Erika realize just how vulnerable she was.
Erika lives with her mother (Annie Girardot) who is routinely domineering–her mother searches her room, goes through her purse–even still chastise this forty-something Erika! Now, after witnessing her mother’s cruelty towards her–developed my understanding of her demonstrating sexual repression or repressive acts and verbally chastises her students. The character experiences erotic pleasures via voyeuristic behaviors, visiting sex shops to watch sadomasochistic style films. This is a lonely figure, isolated in herself torments until she meets a 17-year-old engineering student, Walter Klemmer (Benoit Magimel).
The incredibly beautiful Walter causes an emotional conflict within Erika–which is difficult for her to understand. His approach to her is initially genuine. As the film progresses, this element changes. As she pursues his interest–she is uncomfortable with the results of his conquest–as love–once so unattainable in her staunch personal reality becomes unhinged–how will she handle it? Now that Walter advances towards her sexual reality–will he be able to withstand her view of what love is understood to be?