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34. La Pianiste
The Piano Teacher

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Erika (Isabelle Huppert) is a piano professor at a Vienna music conservatory. Although she is in her forties, she still lives in an apartment with her domineering mother (Annie Girardot); her father is a long-standing resident in a lunatic asylum. Erika is only able to "feel" by enacting cruel punishment on her students, whom she secretly detests.
Upon meeting Walter (Benoît Magimel), a charming 17-year-old engineering student, she becomes obsessed with him, though among colleagues she doubts his chances for a professional career; he is starting at too late a stage she feels. He is also a capable performer and shares in her appreciation for Schumann and Schubert.

She destroys the musical prospects of an insecure but talented girl Anna Schober, when driven by her jealousy of the girl's contact with Walter, by hiding shards of glass inside one of her coat pockets, but is wholly sympathetic when the girl's mother (Susanne Lothar) 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.)

Behind her icy façade, Erika is a sexually-repressed woman with a long list of sadomasochistic fetishes. Walter is very insistent in starting a relationship with her. However, when she finally acquiesces, Walter is unwilling to indulge her violent fantasies, which repulse him. The film ends with Walter attacking her in disgust in her home as per her request, and having violent sex with her as she lies prostrate after receiving a beating from him. However, the reality does not match her internalised fantasies; her father has also just died. The devastation of this reality drives Erika to stab herself.

The film is based on the novel Die Klavierspielerin by Elfriede Jelinek who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004.


2001 Cannes Film Festival: Grand Prix
Best Actor - Benoît Magimel
Best Actress - Isabelle Huppert
2002 César Awards
Best Supporting Actress - Annie Girardot
2002 German Film Awards
Best Foreign Film
2001 European Film Academy
Best European Actress - Isabelle Huppert
2001 French Academy of Cinema
Best Supporting Actress - Annie Girardot
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

Directed by Michael Haneke
Written by Michael Haneke
Elfriede Jelinek (novel)
Starring Isabelle Huppert
Benoît Magimel
Music by Martin Achenbach
Cinematography Christian Berger
Editing by Monika Willi, Nadine Muse
Distributed by Kino International
Release date(s) 2001
Running time 120 minutes
Country France
Language French
Gross revenue $13,897,768


Isabelle Huppert .... Erika Kohut
Annie Girardot .... The Mother
Benoît Magimel .... Walter Klemmer
Susanne Lothar .... Mrs. Schober
Udo Samel .... Dr. Blonskij
Anna Sigalevitch .... Anna Schober
Cornelia Köndgen .... Mme Blonskij
Thomas Weinhappel .... Baritone
Georg Friedrich .... Man in drive-in
Philipp Heiss .... Naprawnik
William Mang .... Teacher
Rudolf Melichar .... Director
Michael Schottenberg .... Teacher
Gabriele Schuchter .... Margot
Dieter Berner .... Singing teacher
Volker Waldegg .... Teacher
Martina Resetarits .... Teacher
Annemarie Schleinzer .... Teacher
Karoline Zeisler .... Teacher
Liliane Neiska .... Secretary
Luz Leskowitz .... Violinist
Viktor Teuflmayr .... Pianist
Viviane Bartsch .... Woman in drive-in (as Vivian Bartsch)
Florian Koban .... Pupil
Thomas Auner .... Haydn pianist
Noam Morgensztern .... The first pupil (voice)

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