La Pianiste (2001)
La Pianiste (2001)
If there was ever a female performance from this decade that deserves to be more recognized, it’s Isabelle Huppert from Michael Haneke’s sexually charged psychological drama La Pianiste. The plot unfolds in an atypical manner, keeping the audience in the dark while at the same time methodically peeling away layer after layer of subtext. The final shocking revelation at the end of the film opens the door for a wide variety of interpretations and adamantly insists on a complete reassessment of everything prior to this moment. Haneke is constantly challenging the viewer on an intellectual level and those unwilling to invest a little bit of brain-power will find this film to be an unpleasant experience to sit through. There is pandering to a certain degree on Haneke’s part but it is done in such a captivating and thought-provoking way so as to not be a major distraction.
Furthermore, it is Isabelle Huppert who has this unspeakable transfixing power that makes it difficult to keep one’s gaze off of her. She plays Erika Kohut, a highly respected piano teacher who champions a strict attitude towards her students. Her profession is more of a false projection of her true self because outside of the classroom she is one creepy lady. Just to give you a taste of her perverse disposition – she goes to a drive-in movie theatre and masturbates to a young couple having sex in the backseat of a car. Or how about when she goes into an adult-movie store full of male customers, enters one of the private booths and watches porn stoically while sniffing the tissue paper of discard ejaculation. This is only the tip of the ice-berg concerning Haneke’s sadistic agenda as he has his heroine sexually pursue one of her male students resulting in a vicious and uncompromising depiction of male/female gender roles and masochism.
I honestly can’t think of a more disturbing female character than Erika Kohut and it is because of Hubbert’s skillful ability to present such a repressed individual that Haneke’s message is given a heightened intensity. Huppert’s character doesn’t actually say much but the way Haneke analyzes her with his camera angles and shot compositions suggest that she is constantly at war with her inner demons. Rarely has an actor managed to disguise aggressive sexual tendencies as chillingly as Huppert in this film. She is an emotionally disturbed woman who represses a shady past along with sado-masochistic desires. Her actions take on a moral complexity and it is fascinating to try and understand what possibly could have triggered such erratic behavior. I can only image what conclusions a psychiatrist would arrive at if she were a patient.