He said, “This movie could be quite disturbing and you may not feel good after seeing this”. I smiled at him and said “but I read the novel written by Elfriede Jelinek, a Nobel-prize winner”. Certainly not a faint hearted, but as predicted, I felt so depressed when I watched this chilling rendition of psychological study in “self-annihilation” for the first time  {Gaurav called me crazy, while **he** nudged me back. Alok’s view on this movie was persistent an effect on me}. Both Isabelle Huppert {enigmatically brilliant} and Benoit Magimel {passionate and playful} won best acting awards in Cannes for their unflinching and sharp portrayal of the “sadomasochistic” relationship between stiff-lipped, cold, abrasive and sexually repressed piano teacher {Erika} at a Viennese conservatory and a handsome, vibrant young student who loves her for the intensity she embodies. It studies the emotional conflict between “Steely grip on passion and Fragile touch of love”, “Bright, vibrant world of love and Dark chambers of seduction”, blended beautifully with art-music.pianoteacher.jpg Middle-aged Erika is not mere a frail-looking and elegantly dressed beautiful woman that the world sees. A strict perfectionist as a teacher {does she teach or discourage/thwart?}, with who almost all students have tough an existence, wears dark sexual urges on her slender shoulders with aplomb. She lives with her fiercely protective mother {quite irritant a factor. Imagine how would a grown-up woman feel, when her mother tracks her moves constantly} and her social life is quite restricted. She indulges in tiny moves of rebellion occasionally, which indicates a silent battle between Erika and her mother. After her classes, she roams around the peep shows to enjoy perverse passion {culturally,are not these considered “masculine” activities?}, spies on lovers in the late night. Her first ever encounter with Walter Klemmer, a talented, vibrant and athletic boy occurs at a home concert. She emerges, for a short while, out of her territory of detachment, when she watches him performing {a thin layer of compassion floats over her face, her lips show a fluidity of emotion}. Bewitched by both her performance on piano and her enigmatic yet cold persona, Klemmer joins the advance class, and during a session expresses his desire for her. She pulls down an iron curtain over her tender feelings for the young boy, and lures him into her world – bitter, pessimistic and is full of murkier sexually oppressive acts. Klemmer resists Erika, who seems to have internalized more a “masculinised, bitter, humiliating and masochistic attitude towards sex/love”, and becomes repulsed by her sexual needs {she says she has been waiting for a long time for someone who could slap her, tie her up and humiliate her}.

So far, she discouraged her students while taking the piano classes, kept a steely nerve intact in her gaze as she went about the worldly matters as well as the nocturnal activities so unique to her, including mutilating her genitals {phew! Certainly, an unthinkable and shocking thing one could ever venture into. Is it driven by a strong influence of isolation Alok? I dnot think so}. With Klemmer in her life now, she faces a strange tussle between “Erika who dominates/controls the sexual urge/act” and “Erika who can surrender”. Klemmer, unlike others, did manage to break a few layers of her frozen demeanor, refused to thrive on with  her indifference, and is emotionally strong enough to stay on with her weird demands, even after he was subjected to severe humiliation at the locker room..the strangest sex scene-reviewers commented!..{let me go with my flow}…how the young lad with a wicked smile on his face jogs in front of her, then runs out and leaps in the air, mocks her “next time, we will do better”….an older woman is being seduced by a youngster! He is the man who could inflict severe pain,which allows her to enjoy the pleasure and grief of emotional rejection. Love for Klemmer “feminizes” Erika…a frigid layer of jealousy streams in Erika’s eyes during the practice session, watching Klemmer gently encouraging one of her students before the piano performance, which drives her to do the cruelest act any teacher could ever think of doing it to a student…she expresses her desire for him, apologizes for the sadomasochistic demands she put forth for him to be carried out on her. Though there is a subtler and more tender move in the expression, as a viewer, I felt Erika still wants to dominate his mind and the sexual attraction between them.  When she allows Klemmer to take control of their sexual encounter, it fails miserably. Finally, Klemmer decides to assault Erika sexually as she desired. Following the directions of her letter, he slaps her in front of her mother, locks her mother in the bedroom, hits Erika across her face so hard that her nose starts bleeding. He forces self onto her, while she remains wholly unresponsive to him. One can’t see the kind of pleasure she emotes during her earlier perversions. A few days later, on an evening when her Piano concert is scheduled, severely bruised Erika waits for Klemmer in the concert hall. Klemmer arrives in late and greets her as his piano teacher – as if that sadistic encounter has never occurred between them. Dejected (is she?) she stabs herself with a knife right above her heart…The finale of this movie is truly sad with Erika leaving the concert hall with the blood flowing silently out through her blouse.

Interesting to ponder over – why did Klemmer humiliate her so badly, when he refused to do the same earlier? Had he taken a revenge on her for being so humiliating and cold to him in the beginning? Or had he demonstrated to her that so-much desired sadomasochism acts are actually not as sexually fulfilling as she thought them to be? Or had he realized Erika’s blooming love for him and wanted to take advantage of it in a more humiliating and hurting manner so that his desire for her as well as her dearest wish of “enjoying the pleasure of emotional rejection” could be fulfilled? or the movie attempts to reflect the sense of rejection an older woman would feel as an outcome, after having fallen for a man who is much younger to her ?  Isabelle Huppert breathes life into the character, with her face so transparent like a dew-drenched window on which unspeakable agony, sense of isolation at the backdrop of youth hangouts, and the shocking hatred for self travelled through slender a veil of tears and terse twist of her lips. Just think, what if Erika’d surrendered to Klemmer’s love for her in the beginning itself, forgetting all her sadomasochistic desires? I am sure, it would not have been a film that depicts the ugliness of human desires that could drag one to the edge of degradation, or, it would not have been an effort to show how hopeless and helpless one becomes when one desires someone and that invincible fortress one built around self suddenly seems so brittle and prone to cracks, with the individual poised to take further leaps into self-degradation?..

enjoy this brief encounter : La Pianiste – Parte 1, {this is pretty nice a link! —-The musical context gives writer/director Michael Haneke (Funny Games, The Seventh Continent) ample opportunity to integrate beautiful and telling music performances into the narrative of the film. Erika is a Schubert specialist and that is a meaningful choice here. Schubert, after all, was a syphilitic who never married and died at 31; his later music darkened with his illness and is often laden with dramatic foreboding and melancholy. (“Each night, when I go to sleep, I hope never again to waken, and every morning reopens the wounds of yesterday,” he wrote at age 27.) In particular, Haneke uses three songs from Winterreise, one of Schubert’s last works, an exquisite song cycle to poems by Wilhelm Muller. This is a somber and haunting work in its unrelenting loneliness and anticipation of death.

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