By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated April 05, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke (”Funny Games”), who specializes in the unnerving and disturbing, finds simpatico source material in The Piano Teacher, a novel by Elfriede Jelinek about Erika (Isabelle Huppert), a hard, taut, unmarried music teacher who bullies her students at the Vienna Conservatory, comes home to a claustrophobic, sadomasochistic relationship with her old mother (Annie Girardot), and gets off on porn, peeping, and self-mutilation. And that’s before she meets Walter (Benoît Magimel), a bold younger student who plugs into her electric current of crazy. The audience for this grimly disquieting film is, or ought to be, self-selecting. But those who would follow Haneke on his creepy explorations (which leave interpretations of political and sexual agendas in the head of each beholder) are rewarded by brutal, committed performances from Huppert and Magimel, both of whom won acting awards last year at Cannes for their pains.

Advertisement

Comments