By Juan Hernandez, March 6 2019 —
On Feb. 14, the Globe Cinema screened Michael Haneke’s 2001 film The Piano Teacher, presented by Calgary Cinematheque — a non-profit film society that screens artistic, obscure or challenging films as a means of promoting cinema within Calgary.
If The Piano Teacher teaches us anything, it’s that sex is about 30 per cent physical and 70 per cent psychological. The buildup of fervour and tension is what makes this psycho-sexual thriller a fascinating yet perturbing watch.
The piano teacher — Erika Kohut, played by Isabelle Huppert — is expressionless and cold. She’s well into her thirties yet still lives with her mother, who is controlling but helpless to manage her daughter’s madness. The first scene effectively establishes their relationship — a fight explodes between the two and Kohut ends up ripping some of her mother’s hair out, after which they both cry and make up.
Enter Walter Klemmer, a charming, young engineering student who falls for the piano teacher upon seeing her perform at a private recital. He continues to pursue her even after she repeatedly rejects his advances. Klemmer doesn’t give up and eventually she caves, only for him to discover her sexual depravity.
If you think you’re kinky, well, you’re not. One look into this woman’s brain will make you want to take a long hot shower to purge yourself. Kohut holds very unorthodox fetishes, such as inducing pain by cutting herself, going to sex shops to rub used tissues on her face and walking around drive-in theatres to watch people having sex. When Klemmer reads a letter she wrote to him detailing the acts she wants done to her, he is appalled but Kohut isn’t going to let him get away. When she sees him talking to another pupil, she puts broken glass into the girl’s jacket pocket, injuring her hand so badly that she cannot play a concert and Kohut takes her place instead. Kohut continues to push Klemmer until he cracks and gives her what she wants.
The intensity between Klemmer and Kohut leaves viewers on edge, because she is unstable and Walter is too good to be true — but only at the film’s end does his maliciousness come out. Through glances and gestures they seduce each other until their desire is too much to bear. Kohut gives off a sense of dissatisfaction with everything, never smiling and treating others with roughness. It goes without saying that you cannot expect love if you do not give it.Films presented by Calgary Cinematheque screen every Thursday at either the Globe Cinema or Plaza Theatre, with its annual season lasting from October to April. For more information about films presented by Calgary Cinematheque and to view their schedule, visit their website.