Generally favorable reviews - based on 26 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 49 Ratings

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  • Starring: ,
  • Summary: Erika is a piano teacher at a prestigious music school in Vienna. In her early forties and single, she lives with her overprotective and controlling mother. Lonely and alienated, Erika finds solace by visiting sex shops and experimenting with masochism. [Kino International]
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 23 out of 26
  2. Negative: 0 out of 26
  1. The Piano Teacher will surely be too strong for some audiences and is best left to those who like films that take big risks and get away with them.
  2. Reviewed by: Jeff Stark
    When you see The Piano Teacher in a movie theater you get a chance to go back in time, back to the days when French movies were titillating, provocative and kind of smart.
  3. 80
    A seriously scandalous work, beautifully made, and it deserves a sizable audience that might argue over it, appreciate it -- even hate it. [1 April 2002, p. 98]
  4. 80
    Watching Haneke's film is, aptly enough, a challenge and a punishment. But watching Huppert, a great actress tearing into a landmark role, is riveting.
  5. The audience for this grimly disquieting film is, or ought to be, self-selecting.
  6. 40
    This is a psychological study that rejects psychology, an erotic drama of surpassing coldness, and a story of amour fou in which the madness is calculated and the love frozen.

See all 26 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 23
  2. Negative: 5 out of 23
  1. Jan 29, 2014
    The Piano Teacher was a very shocking movie. I definitely was not expecting it to be so disturbing. The main character, Erica (played fantastically by Isabelle Huppert), gradually emerged and showed herself to be a very flawed and messed up person, which was beautiful to watch thanks to Michael Haneke's brilliant directing and script. Expand
  2. Feb 2, 2013
    In Michael Haneke's "The Piano Teacher," which won three awards at Cannes 2001 (best actress, actor and film), Isabelle Huppert plays the role of a bold, conflicted woman named Erika Kohut. Erika is approaching middle age-she is a highly respected and equally demanding instructor at the conservatory of music in Vienna. Erika is stone cold--distant, unsmiling, she leads a secret life of self-mutilation. In the classroom she sits without emotion, but listens attentively to her students. She doesn't want to help her students however--she wants to destroy them.
    Erika lives with her domineering mother, who is immediately subjected to her mother's demanding questions the minute she walks through the door. We quickly realize Erika is completely manipulated and owned by her mother's invasive possessiveness. Instantly Erika resorts to behaving like a child, or a rebellious teenager at best. They both sleep in the bed together. Her mother (a chillingly unsympathetic Annie Girardot), complains and is bitter about money Erika is squandering. Pleading, shouting, and violence is followed by brief tearful apologies--and it is obvious that this is a well-worn habitual pattern. She intrusively rings Erika when she is rehearsing, and apparently has no life of her own. Enter Walter Klemmer (BenoƮt Magimel), who is a handsome, self-assured student who auditions for her class and is forthright in his attraction to her. She responds coldly then demands he let her lead. Then she changes the role with a detailed letter, inviting him into her dark, twisted fantasies. The sex scenes within the movie, while not graphic, are long, uncomfortable--and psychologically brutal. The movie goes to a place of mad masochism. At a certain point we begin to feel that the director, the characters, and the actors will take this anywhere--there are no boundaries. Erika is not simply an adventuress, or a sexual experimenter--Erika is a psychological train wreck. Walter's dreams and thoughts about an experienced older woman have turned into nightmares about interactions and scenarios he doesn't even want to know about.
    Erika is a highly respected professor at the prestigious Vienna conservatory, who just happens to spend her free time visiting pornography dens and mutilating her genitals. The women is a ticking time bomb that's on the verge of exploding at any given point. Some audience members will dislike the ending, but with a film like this any conventional ending would be a cop-out. Ultimately, "The Piano Teacher" is a disturbing portrait of a woman in power coming undone before our very eyes.
  3. Apr 2, 2011
    This is a movie about madness. An uptight, arrogant, caustic piano teacher turns out to be Mrs. Goodbar. We're led to believe she got this way from being under the thumb of a controlling mother, but like Black Swan the madness is too extreme to have come from suppression of the id. At first her madness is fascinating to watch, because her fetish seems to be sexual control....of men., but unfortunately the character then disintegrates into a masochist who allows her student to get the upper hand, and let out plenty of his suppressed anger at women. The last half hour is gruesome to watch and we learn nothing about her or the point of the movie. The ending is abrupt and maddeningly teasing. Hubbert is one of my favorite French actresses and I'm sure she took this on for the challenge but once again "madness" on the screen is used to encourage excess rather than insight. Expand

See all 23 User Reviews